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Photo by Justin Quaintance

Decreased parking fees have potential to improve student engagement

By Scott Strasser, March 17 2017 — 

Every year, at least one Students’ Union general election candidate runs a platform vowing to reduce parking costs at the University of Calgary. And every year when we interview this person for our SU election supplement, we have to point out why this goal is unfeasible.

The SU doesn’t have any authority over parking rates on campus, as the university’s parking and transportation services department sets their rates based on what similar sized institutions are charging. That means reducing parking rates at the U of C would also mean reducing parking rates at the University of Alberta, Mount Royal University and other post-secondary institutions in the province.

The U of C also has several sustainability initiatives, one of which is reducing the amount of cars on campus. If parking is too cheap, fewer students will use public transportation. It’s clear there are a multitude of reasons why reducing parking rates is not a realistic goal for SU candidates.

But there’s a reason this idea keeps coming up. Many SU hopefuls take a populist approach to their platforms and craft their goals according to what other students have told them they feel is important. The cost of parking is obviously something students care about and it’s time the university start to take this concern seriously. The U of C should offer better parking incentives and reduce its parking rates — at least on weekends and evenings.

Cheaper parking during these times could lead to higher student attendance at social events that take place on campus, such as theatre performances, club events and Dinos games. The U of C is trying to improve the “student experience” under its new strategic plan, but its status as a commuter campus is a direct obstacle. Reducing parking fees during the times many events occur could help convince students to spend more time on campus. I know I’ve personally been discouraged from returning to campus at night because I don’t want to pay for parking twice in a single day. I’m sure other students have had similar experiences.

While parking doesn’t fall within the SU’s jurisdiction, there is precedent to show they’re willing to fight for students’ interests in this regard. Last semester, the SU and the university negotiated an agreement that allowed for free re-entry in Lot 10 during the final exam period. It was an easy gesture for the U of C to make, but it was clear that many students appreciated it.

The U of C would not suffer irreparable financial losses if they offered better parking incentives. If anything, they’d probably make more money. It’s time the university realizes this and takes action.

 

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