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Why is parking at UMass so expensive?

Andy Castillo/Daily Collegian

(Andy Castillo/Daily Collegian)

Parking around the University of Massachusetts campus is quite expensive. While the overburdening expenses at school mount up for students, we face more and more fees at every possible avenue while in attendance.

You could argue that taking the local public bus system is an adequate and cheap way for off-campus students to get to class. In fact, it’s free for students to ride. However, realistically for students that work full or part-time and go to class, it can be quite a challenge to navigate your entire schedule without a car. The bus system can add hours to any commute and in college, time is almost always of the essence.

For UMass students that do decide to drive to class, whether out of need or privilege, it costs dollars a day and can easily add up to over $100 a month if you park in certain lots like the garage on campus. The garage charges $1.75 an hour during the day from 5 a.m. until 5 p.m. and $1.00 an hour at night. At the same time, the parking garage located in downtown Northampton, nothing short of an affluent and busy business community and tourist destination, only charges 50 cents per hour. It’s even free for the first hour.

For metered or pay station parking on campus, the charge is $1.50 an hour. Take a couple of classes with some time in between and that can easily add up to three or four dollars. It may all sound like only a small charge when you pay day-to-day with change, but when you suddenly can’t find any change in your house, something seems a little bit off. In downtown Amherst, metered parking is only 50 cents an hour. I once found parking 10 feet from Miami Beach for 50 cents an hour.

Why is parking so expensive on our campus? It’s just hard to contemplate why students should ever have to pay more in day-to-day expenses on campus than in the real world. Tuition and fees are already gigantic for students, and most of us end up in debt by the time we leave school. Anyone who knows how to save will tell you that every little bit counts, and parking adds up quickly.

Of course, the University offers the option of pay-per-year parking with most of the available lots located on the edge of campus. The permits for these lots cost between $248 and $671. The least expensive option gets you a dirt lot near parking services while $671 gets you the upper garage.

I attended a public community college in New Haven, Connecticut several years ago. It was a very inexpensive school to attend. By going to the school, students are automatically entitled to park for free in the school parking garage, an independent building in the expensive real estate market of New Haven, right off of the green. All we had to do was show our school ID. It seems a little bit backwards that this was the situation at the lower-tier, inexpensive community college.

Parking fees are entirely understandable. Parking lots need to be maintained – even dirt ones. It’s just the fact that the fees don’t line up to the community at large. Parking at school shouldn’t cost more than it does in every town in the surrounding community. If we are attending a state university riddled with grants and funding and constant architectural development, why are students still bearing the brunt? Believe it or not, it’s cheaper to park at a metered space in downtown Boston than it is at UMass, at $1.25 an hour. New York City costs more, but only in downtown Manhattan. The rest of Manhattan costs the same at UMass and the boroughs are all cheaper.

Maybe the school is charging students so much to make up for losses in other areas. Maybe maintenance just costs more than I know. Maybe the University just thought of another way to make money.

Whatever the case, the discrepancies cast doubt. To those who walk, take the bus or ride their bike to campus: more power to you, it’s the best way to do it. But for those who often decide to drive, the costs can be daunting and in the scope of things, they should be less.

 

Ian Hagerty is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at ihagerty@umass.edu.

Comments
7 Responses to “Why is parking at UMass so expensive?”
  1. Excalibur says:

    If you are worried about parking fees it means you are not rich. If you are not rich, you are not welcome at UMass/Amherst.

  2. Samantha says:

    I went to STCC for a semester and the parking there was free for students. It was a slap in the face when I came to UMass and saw the parking prices.

  3. Jon says:

    Parking fees also serve as a deterrent to driving to campus. Parking takes up a huge amount of space on campus, and that space can be used more effectively than as surface lots. Higher parking fees also go towards funding other initiatives, like the transit system, which could be expanded if there was a strong demand to do so. It’s like the chicken and the egg, we need to demand earlier/later bus service if we want it to become a reality, but if there aren’t enough passengers late at night or early in the morning, service won’t be provided then.

    Finally, you’re paying what the space is worth. The expectation that parking should be cheap or free is unrealistic because the land you are effectively renting from the University is worth much more than you think you should be paying in parking fees.

  4. Stefan Herlitz says:

    It’s because Parking Services is an independent revenue entity- it’s expected to raise enough revenue through parking passes (not tickets, as those go directly towards financial aid) to cover its expenses. It pays for plowing, maintenance, and lot construction, the latter two of which have fallen far to the wayside because there simply isn’t enough money to do it all. The Garage needs a couple million in repairs, many lots are in terrible condition, and plowing costs have only been rising.

    That’s why Parking Services proposed those meager after-5pm weekday parking charges- a massive portion of parking at UMass is already free, meaning many people who use the service never pay for it. It costs paying students so much more because they’re also paying for everyone else who uses the system. Since UMass is not a commuter school (with ~60% on campus and many more within bus/walk distance), the choice was made long ago not to make students without cars pay for others’ parking through a general fee.

    Money can’t come from somewhere else in the University, since that’d just mean jacking up fees elsewhere and make the whole budgeting process a lot less transparent. If you want free parking, you need to get the legislature to agree to foot the bill.

  5. The_Chairman says:

    I’m not sure what you do know about maintenance costs, but I can tell you that Parking Services really isn’t rolling in the dough despite popular perception. As of a year ago, they had $10 million in deferred maintenance. Annual costs to maintain and service lots run into the millions. Meanwhile, revenue from student parking permits comes in around $1.4 million (I’m not sure of faculty numbers, but I imagine that students revenues constitute the bulk). Plus there are all sorts of hidden costs like traffic jams and environmental pollution, the latter of which adds up to over a million bucks a year by conservative estimates (I calculated this last year for a term paper).

    Unless your job is off-campus in some inaccessible location, or you have some other extenuating circumstance, then having a car isn’t truly necessary. Yeah, taking the bus obviously isn’t as convenient, but there is a simple fix: go to the library or somewhere else in the meantime and occupy yourself. This school is already cash-strapped as it is, so asking other students who don’t want or need a car here to subsidize your convenience and comfort strikes me as hugely narcissistic.

    As to your example of Northampton’s garage, I seriously doubt that they are turning a profit on the place. I suspect that the main purpose of that discount is to draw more visitors to the many shops and restaurants downtown, which serves to stimulate the local economy. The comparison really isn’t valid at all.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Ahhh…to be young(er) and naive!

    You certainly cannot compare the COA (cost of attendance) at a local community college to a major state university. The way UMass is structured, Parking Services, similarly to Dining Services, is its own entity within the University. The money that they receive from the lots goes directly towards the necessary maintenance and other operating costs. The costs of maintaining a lot that multiple THOUSANDS of people are driving through versus maintaining a lot at a local community college are so varied that it’s almost comical.

    I worked at a small private college, and a parking permit for the year was only $25 – that seems great, until you realize that there were all of 2.5 lots on the entire campus. Look at how many lots are on the UMass campus, and how many of them are in serious need of some TLC – you think a marginal $0.50/hr is going to take care of that? I sure don’t.

    They also try to deter students and their families from sending up freshmen with cars when it most certainly is not needed. I made it through 5 years at UMass as an out of state student with an off-campus job by using the bus system and have zero complaints about that. Some of this nonsense is also these students becoming more spoiled and expecting the University to let them have their cars. HAVING YOUR CAR ON CAMPUS IS A PRIVILEGE NOT A RIGHT.

  7. Worker says:

    UMASS- The parking there is practically terrorism! hefty fines no deals for workers change machines don’t work though it’s 25cents for 10 mins WORSE THAN BOSTON! It’s a $$$$ SCAM thousands of parking spots but you can’t park anywhere unless you pay like $550 per year. It should be illegal. They charge contractors that have to work there as well GREED SUX and it’s obvious

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