Written by: Amal Javed Abdullah, Staff Writeparking
SFU’s Burnaby campus is labeled as a commuter campus, as the majority of students live neither in residence nor at UniverCity. To get up this mountain, they either have to commute to and from classes via public transit or drive their own vehicles. For those who choose to drive, parking on campus can be very expensive.
While the Translink U-Pass is included in the student tuition fee, transit is not always the most feasible alternative. For those who live far away (ie. Richmond or Langley,), it can take close to two hours one way to commute via bus and train. Not everyone wishes to be stuck on a bus for an hour or two when they can drive the distance in a much shorter time. It doesn’t help that TransLink has a long way to go in terms of improving connections between trains and busses.
Even for those of us who live a little bit closer, it’s still an inconvenience to have to take transit. I have many friends who live in Surrey who have to take three busses and two trains to get to the Burnaby campus. Some combine the transit commute with their cars, driving to King George or Scott Road Station, then taking a train. Transit ends up being an unnecessary hassle that we, as students who have more than enough to worry about, would avoid if we could.
However, the alternative isn’t great. Parking on campus is extremely expensive. We’re already broke, yet we still have to pay for gas and car maintenance that cost more than they’re worth (I’m looking at you, Vancouver gas prices). We can’t afford to pay exorbitant rates just so our cars can sit on a strip of pavement.
It’s a common rumour that students avoid paying their parking tickets by buying a new license plate every three tickets. A parking ticket costs $30, while replacing a license plate and a insurance decal (if you can’t pry your current one off) costs $18 each.
So what’s the solution to this student parking problem? Some people suggest that parking should be included in all students’ tuition fees so that the burden of the cost can be evenly distributed. I see two problems with this idea.
Firstly, regardless of how much the parking rates decrease, there will always be a huge chunk of students who will never drive up the mountain, for a variety of reasons (i.e. they might not own a car, transit might be more convenient for them, they might live on campus). It would be just as unfair to them to have to pay for parking when they have no need for it as it is for students who do need it to have to pay unnecessarily high rates right now.
Secondly, in addition to the exorbitant parking fees, there’s already a problem with finding empty spots in the parking lots. We’ve all heard horror stories of people being late for class because they couldn’t find a spot for their car. I can very easily see how incorporating parking fees into tuition could grossly increase the number of drivers on campus and lead to an even greater overflow in our lots.
I can’t propose a solution that I can say with certainty will work; I don’t have any experience in running university operations. I do suggest that if SFU needs the money from the current parking rates, even while students can’t afford those rates, then the university needs to find alternate modes of income. This might just mean that we’ll be “robbed” through some other means, but I see it as a more equitable alternative than the current model.
If the prices are low enough so that students can afford them, then they’ll be more likely to pay, which will earn SFU more money in the long-run.
I can potentially see what reasons the university might present for having the prices as high as they do, but if students just can’t afford to pay them, then are those justifications really valid? I don’t see any way around this problem other than petitioning the school to lower the fees.