“Parking has been an issue for years at this campus, but it’s not about space, it’s about management,” said Walied Koghali, president of SAC at UTM and member of the Parking and Transportation Committee.
At Erindale, students are fighting management in an uphill battle to freeze the current price of parking, and it looks like they’re getting nowhere fast.
The parking lots at UTM are frequently half-vacant, which is no surprise, since the spots that aren’t being used are also the most expensive ones. A parking permit for the sometimes vacant Communication, Culture and Information Technology building is over a thousand dollars-$1,070-per year.
“It’s become so unaffordable that students don’t want to be part of the system anymore, it’s cheaper to park illegally or buy off the parking attendants,” said Koghali.
According to him, this perpetuates a vicious cycle-when fewer students buy permits, it means less funding and leads to higher parking fees for those who do pay.
Koghali has observed first-hand that the lack of effective parking enforcement means that students who park illegally can, at the end of the year, end up paying less in parking tickets than students who pay for a permit.
According to Koghali, this is all because the UTM parking coordinator position has remained vacant for a year.
Parking fees shot up by 30 per cent at the beginning of this year, going from $482 to $578. The increase of almost a hundred dollars was, Koghali says, put in place to pay for the new CCIT building-a state-of-the-art facility with various multimedia classrooms and a high-tech lecture theatre which opened in the fall of 2004.
It was also meant to fund a new $24-million parking facility, one that would have answered students’ calls for affordable spaces. But according to Koghali, the project was officially scrapped at the last committee meeting. He points out that according to the Transportation and Parking Strategy Report, current parking use is at 78 per cent and is projected to reach 91 per cent by 2010.
“The big thing we’re fighting now is to get a rebate for the increases that happened. The increase was supposed to pay for a parking garage that isn’t happening, so that money can come back to the students,” he explains. “Yet, they’re still calling for a five per cent increase of unreserved and reserved outdoor parking, which will not be received well by Erindale College Student Councillors.”
But it’s not as if students have been beating down the doors of UTM admin over the parking costs that are hurting them. Faculty and unionized staff are upset that students aren’t crying outrage over the increased parking fees, which are projected to go up every year by at least thirty dollars.
“We need to make noise as students,” Koghali pleaded. “When the vote for increased fees was happening, every student representative objected, but only five students showed up to vote against it out of over fifty student representatives. If we had all of our reps there to vote we probably would have failed that motion.”
Koghali believes that students are genuinely fed up, however, and that they will take action soon.
“I’ve heard rumours about an organized demonstration if all the talks fail with the university on maintaining or reducing current fees,” he said.
The committee is looking at re-striping the lots which will add several additional spaces, and there are going to be minor expansions, including one currently taking place on lot nine.
These small concessions combined with a demonstration may lead to some change, but in the meantime, students shouldn’t expect any decreased fees, rebates, or too much more affordable parking space any time soon. Fewer and fewer students will be able to afford a permit for unreserved parking, which comes with a nearly six hundred-dollar price tag, but offers no guarantee that you will actually find a spot.