Letter: UMass should not require parking permits after 5 p.m. next year

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(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

Dear Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and Director of Transportation Services Jeri Baker:

We the undersigned have serious reservations about the proposed changes to Transit Service’s evening parking policy at the University of Massachusetts that is scheduled to begin September 2015.

We understand the University intends to charge a fee to guests parking in campus lots after 5 p.m. on weekdays. News of this impending fee change is disconcerting to our campus and community coalition. We believe this change will have serious repercussions for undergraduate and graduate students, academic departments and programs, patrons of University programs and members of the greater Pioneer Valley community who access University services.

Historically, many lots on campus remained open to those without UMass parking stickers after 5 p.m. With this change, graduate students will be negatively affected, as many of them work evenings on campus, and most of their courses take place after 5 p.m. Student-organized evening events, such as cultural nights and general body meetings, will see a decline in participation because of the proposed parking fee. There are large numbers of students who live off campus and utilize public transportation during the day to attend class. Due to limited evening bus service and concern for personal safety, many students drive their cars when they come to campus after 5 p.m. Each of these factors is significant to the retention of students.

Many potential visitors are already reluctant to come to campus because of our size and complexity. Adding a charge for evening parking will further discourage the community from coming to the University. It sends a message that UMass is not a welcoming place. We are convinced the new fee will have a negative impact on the number of people attending evening lectures, art openings, community meetings, theater and music events. Organizations that rely on volunteers will have a harder time attracting and retaining these volunteers. The University is a public institution, supported by taxpayer dollars. Erecting barriers to community participation in on-campus events is counterproductive to building a constituency for public funding of the UMass system.

Thousands of citizens of the Commonwealth will be affected, including dozens of UMass departments and their staff and students. We believe the loss of income that units like the Fine Arts Center, theater department and student cultural groups will experience, along with the ill-will generated by this change, outweighs whatever additional revenue is produced through fees and citations. As unhappy visitors arrive late for events because of parking machine bottlenecks, and as disgruntled patrons find their vehicles ticketed, the burden of dealing with an angry public will fall to affected departments.

We request you postpone implementation of this new policy until we have had an opportunity to meet with you to understand why this change is necessary, what alternatives were explored and how much it will cost to implement. The core of our concern is that while parking services will have an increase in revenue, other departments may experience significant loss in dollars and participation due to this change.


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