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Each and every morning, Steven K. Haley, a kitchen employee, and his mother, Maureen, an ID checker, commute from Belmont, Mass., to Currier House.
Until recently, the mother and son-Harvard Dining Services veterans of 25 and 13 years respectively-would spend the early-morning hours searching Cambridge's crowded streets for a place to park.
Finally, last year, they secured a covered spot in a Harvard University lot.
They were the lucky ones.
With a scarcity of parking places in Cambridge, frustrated University employees have few choices. They can apply for a space from Harvard University Parking Services (HUPS), which costs employees up to $625 a year and often requires a wait for availability.
Or they can play a game of chance, taking a city space and hoping that no ticket shows up on the windshield after work.
According to its Web site, HUPS seeks to provide "safe, reliable and convenient parking" for campus workers.
But some of Harvard's staff say they don't do an adequate job.
"There's not much availability," said Steven Haley, whose mother applied for a HUPS space in 1995. "She was on a waiting list for almost a year."
The Haleys could have purchased a permit to park in the Harvard Business School parking lot in Allston much sooner, but they both work in the Quad, a half-hour walk from the B-school. Instead, they waited the year for their spot in the Harvard Press lot, a parking area one block from the Quad.
HUPS officials made no bones about the long waits for specific parking areas.
"If someone is willing to take business school parking they could have it almost immediately," said Ann Honeycutt, manager of parking services. "If they want a smaller lot, they may wait a year. They may wait more than a year."
Steven Haley said while his mother waited for a permit, "she was parking out back to see if she could get away with it."
Parking tickets ended that practice quickly, though.
Other Harvard employees said they have learned much about the streets of Cambridge while trying to find alternatives to Harvard-owned spaces.
"I know a few little nooks and crannies," said Robin Murray '69, a reference assistant in Widener library.
"Sometimes I park on Cambridge Street. The spaces are free there," he said. "You just have to drive up and down the street until somebody leaves."
Murray, who lives in Melrose, Mass. said he sometimes parks north of Kirkland Street, just inside the Somerville border, where non-residents are allowed to park. In Cambridge, only cars with stickers denoting residence may park in most areas.
He said the price tag for a HUPS permit deters him from going that route.
"I'm only part time.... It costs too much for the number of hours I work," Murray said. "If I were working full time I'd almost have to do it."
HUPS charges $625 a year for 24-hour spaces for employees, or $350 for spaces that can only be accessed from 7 a.m. to midnight.
Honeycutt said that HUPS makes no profit selling its permits.
"We're a break-even institution," she said. "Rates are based on slow incremental increases on a yearly basis."
The income from parking permits is spent on general operating expenses, she said.
"Locks have to be repaired or replaced, snow needs to be removed from spaces so they can be used the next day," Honeycutt said. "It's a fee for service."
In Thursday's Boston Globe, Mike Barnicle wrote a column that criticized Harvard for charging its employees to park, considering the school's healthy endowment.
"A university worth nearly as much as Raytheon whacks these people between $350 and $625 a year to put their cars in university-owned lots," he wrote.
But Karen Anderson, a Harvard University Technical Services employee, wrote in a letter to the Globe that she felt the parking fees were reasonable.
"I know of no other place in Boston or Cambridge where you can have a safe parking spot feet from your door and receive the protection of the Harvard police," she wrote.
Students, faculty and staff are all charged the same amount for permits. Staff who opt for permits usually use the cheaper spaces, HUPS officials said, since they park their cars at home at night.
Many employees at HDS and other Harvard offices either use public transportation, or simply walk.
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