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Part Two

Part 2: Student parking at Western — an unusual struggle

Part 2 of Student parking at Western: An unusual struggle looks into the reasons behind the disparity in faculty/staff and student parking rates.

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In part one of Student parking at Western: An unusual struggle, The Gazette found that when compared to thirteen universities across Ontario, Western's differences in parking rates between faculty/staff and students standout — with students paying significantly in many cases for the same period. 

The Gazette found that faculty and staff unions have parking-related stipulations in their contracts with the University. A clause in faculty and staff union agreement states, "Parking rates for Members shall not be increased by more than the Consumer Price Index (CPI), as determined annually from January to January by Statistics Canada, unless the Association is first advised and given the opportunity to respond in writing to the rationale provided by the Employer."

This provides staff and faculty an in-built mechanism where their parking rates are much more difficult to change as opposed to students. The Gazette reached out to the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association and the University of Western Ontario Staff Association and was directed to Western's Parking Services.

Despite repeated questions by The Gazette, Western Parking Services did not address the questions posed about the union agreements, the reason behind lack of student access to core and perimeter lots, the lack of student parking data in the Parking Modernization Plan 2016 used to compare Western to other schools which skewed the data in Western's favour and any future plans to reduce the disparity between students and faculty/staff rates. 

At this point, students have no publicly agreement with the University for regulation of their parking fees. 

USC president Eddy Avila cited a lack of student complaints raised to the University Students' Council about student-related parking issues on campus. 

“If there were more concerns and an uprising increase, potentially, then it is something I think that we can take a look at but so far, at least personally, we have not received too many of them,” said Avila.

Avila also noted that the lack of an agreement also stems from the fact that students are not employees and therefore cannot be unionized.

“I am an off-campus student so obviously I have felt the realities of having those parking passes as a challenge," Avila said. "I drove for all four years of my undergrad and I feel for it so I think anything that we can help to at least bring those voices up [to the] administration we would be happy to do."

While Western's Parking Services did not respond to individual questions by The Gazette, Elizabeth Krische, Western's director of procurement services, sent a statement which is attached in full at the bottom of this article. 

Krische cited space taken up up new buildings such as Ontario Hall as eliminating "hundreds of student spaces." She also added that the new Western Interdisciplinary Research Building has done the same to "hundreds of staff/faculty spaces." 

Krische said that Western has a more lot capacity than other institutions like Queen's University and Fanshawe College. If lots are filled in one area, students can look for parking in other lots of the same zone. 

"At Queen's University, space has become so scarce that a region-exclusive policy similar to Fanshawe's has been enacted and eligible customers are added to the waitlist," she said. "Fortunately, Western currently has the capacity and hasn't resorted to this alternative." 

According to Kirsche, separate lot allocation for faculty/staff and students is common across U-15 universities across the country, with roughly 80 per cent following this model. 

"Many of the student lots, except Springett, have been aligned with residences and provide a walking distance to class that is similar to those living on campus," she said. 

For Jenna Hanbridge, fourth-year criminology student, the fact that students cannot pay for better lots is a big issue.

“I have a reserve permit and I am paying more than what the students pay normally but it sucks because we are still stuck to the outside perimeter lots,” said Hanbridge. “If we are paying more why can we not park where we want to park, why is it not a 'first come first serve' basis for the core spots? I think that’s what [the worst part of] this is.”

Kirsche agreed that the variable parking rate structure which in instances ends up giving students a much higher rate than faculty/staff for the same period, is unique to Western.

However, the lower annual rate, which is the only permit which is cheaper for students, is provided to students as an incentive to purchase parking in volume. 

"This is similar to buying a large coffee, which has twice the volume as a small, but only a fraction more expensive," she said. "Conversely, the practice results in a disincentive and becomes more expensive for shorter term permits."

Kirsche pointed out towards USC's bus pass agreement with the London Transit Commission as an example of alternate transportation available to students. 

"Though not a parking initiative, the USC has also negotiated a heavily subsidized city bus pass for students, providing further options for getting to campus without a car," she said. 

Krische advised that students and campus community members to consider take alternative transportation, including cycling to school in order to help alleviate vehicular congestion.

 

Sabrina is pursuing her first year as a News Editor here at the Gazette. She is a third year International Relations student at Western University.

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