Why is parking at UMass so expensive?

By Ian Hagerty

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 [email protected].