UC San Diego Transportation Services received 1,187 responses to four new weekend parking proposals on the Virtual Town Hall feedback platform between July 19 and August 5. These proposals come in response to outcry from students and the local community after Transportation Services to a now withdrawn proposal for a flat $5 fee on June 28.
As a self-reliant service, Transportation Services is required to cover all costs related to operating and expanding parking services. The price increases will partially fund the 9,300 parking spots that have opened up or are currently under planning and construction.
After withdrawing the $5 flat fee, Transportation Services announced that it would draft alternative policy options with input from leaders in Associated Students of UCSD (ASUCSD), the Graduate Student Association, and the Student Transportation Advisory Committee (STAC). The four policy options presented for feedback in the Virtual Town Hall are the result of these negotiations.
“In two [of the four] alternatives there are a total of ten less paid parking hours on weekdays, in another we radically rethink the night and weekend permit for students,” said Transportation Services Director Josh Kavanagh in an email to The Triton. “Both of these are ideas [that] were inspired from our meetings with students.”
Regardless of which of the four alternative options is selected, weekend parking without a permit will cost $1.50 per hour with a maximum charge equal to four hours starting this fall.
Under Option A, weekend parking will remain free for students, but Transportation Services will increase permit prices higher than expected to pay for ongoing parking construction. Options B, C, and D all include a limited number of free virtual parking permits for weekends combined with changes to parking enforcement.
ASUCSD President Eleanor Grudin and STAC Chair Kelly Morris are concerned that Option A will gain support from students without consideration that the free weekend parking would be paid for by students purchasing parking permits.
Option A is essentially a surcharge on permit holders for the benefit of non-permit holders, said Director Kavanagh at the STAC Meeting on August 5. An S permit could cost as high as $1020 per year.
Under Options B, C, and D, paid parking enforcement would be cut by two hours in the evenings and weekend enforcement would begin at 10:30 a.m. Additionally, Student and Discount parking permits would upgrade for use in A, B, and V spaces daily at 4:00 p.m. Currently, permits upgrade for use at 4:30 p.m.
Under Options B, C, and D, students can register for complimentary weekend parking permits. The options available are 1, 6, or 10 days, respectively. These permits will be enforced with a virtual permit associated with the vehicle’s license plate. Additional weekend parking will cost $4 per day.
Furthermore, Option D discounts “Night and Weekend” passes by 50%, bringing “Night and Weekend” passes down to $30 for Fall 2019.
Attendees at the STAC meetings on July 22 and August 5 discussed the four proposed options. Students brought up concerns and suggestions during public comment including financial hardships, implementation delays, decreased transit and shuttle services, on-campus employment, and visitor parking.
“During the week, people use many means of transportation: campus bikes and shuttles, busses, some people still drive,” said biological sciences graduate student representative Laura Chipman. “But on the weekend, [means of transportation] dramatically shifts, over 90% of the students in my department [that drive] to campus.”
Graduate students at the meeting said changes to weekend parking policies could decrease grant funds, increase the time to graduate, and reduce access to basic needs for graduate students. A limited number of complimentary parking passes may not be enough for graduate students living on a set stipend who need to be on campus for seven days a week to conduct research.
For example, biological sciences graduate student Hannah Grunwald conducts research with animals as part of her graduate studies, and must be on campus every day.
“Those animals need to be fed. Those animals need to be bred, euthanized appropriately, and checked up on,” said Grunwald at the STAC meeting on August 22. “All of those things are things I actually have to do and if I don’t do them I am not only being irresponsible, I am being inhumane.”
Feedback on the four policy proposals closed August 6 and Transportation Services has begun the process of cleaning and analyzing the Town Hall response data. The final decision on weekend parking charges is expected to be announced mid-August.
“Nobody’s happy about paid weekend parking but these four proposals are trying to help students get some sort of benefit in light of the fact,” said STAC Chair Kelly Morris. “If none of these four are satisfactory, then we will go back to the drawing board.”
Mo Al Elew is a Senior Staff Writer for The Triton. You can follow him at @SoloMune.