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Mayo puts pinch on parking: Volunteers told to use park and ride lots

April 14, 2019 GMT

Lenny Feuling said he’s taking a break.

The 83-year-old retired Kenyon farmer has been a Mayo Clinic volunteer for nearly 10 years, working three shifts a week.

When a change in parking privileges was revealed, he planned to not return to his work in a cafeteria and at the elevator banks.

“I took a leave of absence to see what will wash out of this,” he said, noting the added shuttle bus ride would add to the inconvenience of an already 70-mile round trip.

After calls from volunteer coordinators, he said he may consider volunteering once a week in the future.

Volunteers throughout Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campuses were notified March 22 that they would not have access to downtown parking before 1:30 p.m. on weekdays starting April 1.

Instead they could use outlying clinic parking lots with Mayo Clinic shuttles or use city buses.

It was a change nine-year volunteer Julie Troutman said she understands is needed, but how it was implemented is frustrating.

“The announcement was callous and without foresight,” she said of the emails that arrived on a Friday.

While volunteers with handicap parking access aren’t affected by the changes, Troutman said people with mobility issues — who may not be considered disabled — don’t seem to be taken into account.

“It isn’t right,” she said. “They should have thought about that.”

Stephanie Hurt, secretary for Mayo Clinic’s Parking and Campus Transportation Committee, said the group struggled while discussing options and regrets the lack of time given volunteers, but the change was needed.

“The change was a difficult decision and was implemented quickly due to the urgency of current patient parking constraints,” she said.

OTHERS FEEL PINCH

Mayo Clinic isn’t the only agency feeling parking pressure related to its volunteers.

Earlier this year, the Friends of the Rochester Public Library received notice that the cost of its parking spaces in the Civic Center parking ramp would be increasing, bringing the organization’s annual cost to approximately $4,000.

Board Member John Hunziker said paying the added cost seemed the only option since many of the volunteers rely on the spaces.

“We just bit the bullet and did it,” he said, noting it will have a small financial impact on what the organization can provide the library.

Another organization that has been feeling the effects of downtown parking changes is Elder Network.

“Not only do volunteers serving seniors downtown have difficulty finding parking and have to pay for it themselves, it requires an additional level of coordination for our volunteers,” Associate Executive Director Kristin Mannix said. “This can be a deterrent for volunteers and companions to accept downtown clients.”

However, she said parking is also having a less-expected impact.

“We are doing more medical rides because people don’t want to drive and park downtown,” Mannix said, noting limited parking, increased rates and construction detours are creating new stresses for clients who once drove themselves to downtown medical appointments.

She said the agency is happy to provide door-to-door drop-off to reduce stress, but the increased need has spurred calls for more volunteers.

“We try to keep replenishing that pool of volunteers,” Mannix said, noting the organization wants to eventually offer rides beyond medical appointments.

IMPACT UNKNOWN

Kim Van Rooy, director of Mayo Clinic Volunteer Programs, said it’s too early to say how many of the 1,500 volunteers — 200 to 300 of which could be working on a given day — on Mayo Clinic campuses will become frustrated by the new parking arrangements.

“We understand the new parking arrangements may not be suitable for every volunteer,” she said. “Acknowledging this, we are working individually with volunteers to identify solutions as they navigate the changes. This includes reviewing transportation options, adjusting volunteer schedules and exploring alternate service areas.”

Martha Reeder, a volunteer who calls weekly morning bingo games for children in the Saint Marys Hospital pediatric floor, said she hopes adjustments are made.

“I understand they have a parking issue, but it was just like being fired,” she said. “That’s the way I felt.”

Reeder took a shuttle bus the first week after the change, but discovered the return trip required her to either leave early or stand at the bus stop for an extra 20 to 30 minutes since employee shuttles are less frequent midday.

“I’m really weighing everything out and giving it a little bit of time to change but from what I see, it’s taking more time and I wasn’t able to do what I needed. That doesn’t make you feel good, when you come in and do your job half way,” she said, noting the bingo games are time to fill space between doctors’ rounds and lunch, offering limited flexibility.

Troutman, who offers comfort care for patients receiving chemotherapy, said her volunteer work also comes with limits.

“You give it your all for two hours and you’re done,” she said, indicating that working a four-hour shift to make more efficient use of her time would be draining.

She also said shifting to an afternoon shift to take advantage of downtown Mayo Clinic parking that’s available after 1:30 p.m. isn’t an option she’d consider.

“I love my morning shift,” she said. “I want to get it done in the morning,”

CONCERNS HEARD

Van Rooy said such concerns are being taken into account as the new parking measures are studied.

“We are encouraged and appreciate that many volunteers have tried the various options and provide beneficial feedback,” she said. “We value our volunteers and their dedication to our patients and will continue to assess any concerns.”

With National Volunteer Appreciation Week wrapping up, Troutman said she’s not feeling especially appreciated and she’s already heard of 30 volunteers who have taken their free time elsewhere.

“It’s nice to have an appreciation dinner or luncheon, but I prefer parking,” she said.