The parking dilemma: Why we pay so much

As the new school year moves into full swing, students are busy adjusting to their schedules, scrambling to get textbooks, and fighting that ferocious daily battle: getting a parking space. The Associated Student Government arranged a new parking payment plan during spring quarter of 2011. According to the document entitled “Bellevue College Parking Permit FAQ”, made available by Public Safety in K-100, the ASG “took on the difficult task of determining how to preserve access to campus considering the availability of parking and alternative modes of transportation. They recommended a parking fee as the solution to this growing transportation finance and parking problem.”

So what are the fees and how do they work? Quarterly permits that allow daily parking can be purchased for $65 from Public Safety. For $35, a two-day per week pass is sold for those students who attend class on an irregular schedule. Although the passes are pre-sold as Monday-Wednesday or Tuesday-Thursday, Public Safety advises students with a different two-day schedule to buy the pass anyway, and then come down to their office to have an alternative pass created. Something new to this quarter is a discounted daily pass. Sold for $50, it allows students to park only in lots one, three, and five. These lots are removed from campus, (they are the lots seen to the left as one is going up Landerholm toward the roundabout) but $15 in savings can mean a lot to money-minded students.

Aside from these permit-lots, there are three metered lots: on top of the parking garage, lot nine by the baseball field, and lot twelve by the computer lab. These lots have solar powered parking meters which issue all-day passes for $2 or all week passes for $10. These lots are frequented by daily students for a variety of reasons. However, along with frequent problems reported by students about the meters (they often freeze or eat cash) the math here proves this to be a less than cost effective option for daily students: with 52 days in this quarter (allowing for days off) that adds up to $104 in paid parking fees. Still, some students are either unwilling or unable to shell out the $50 or $65 needed for a daily pass in one purchase, instead electing to pay a seemingly more manageable $2 a day. Student Michael Castillo said “I come here five days a week and I just don’t have the money to buy a pass out-right.” Asked whether or not he was aware of the discounted pass offered for lots one, three and five, Castillo responded “No, I wasn’t aware.” Another anonymous daily-meter user stated “I really just don’t want to pay for a pass; I’m trying to join a carpool.”

Bellevue College staff and faculty also pay for parking, with the cost coming out directly out of their pay. One anonymous faculty member spoke at length with the Watchdog about parking. “The faculty union decided that, if students have to pay, then we should pay too, that was our sentiment. But I have a labor issue with the fact that we have to pay for inadequate and inappropriate parking. As a student I would have a problem paying, considering rising tuition costs. It’s like slapping a fee on top of a tax. And where does the money go? I’m not certain that this isn’t public information, but if it’s not obvious to me then it probably isn’t obvious to Joe Student.”

The money, as it turns out, goes to the “Parking Budget” a coffer which one anonymous Public Safety employee stated, “Gets split between the college and Student Programs.” Public Safety Director Tommy Vu was unavailable for comment, and therefore unable to elaborate on this subject. Questions regarding this information should be brought to Faisal Jaswal, head of student programs as well as Vu.

Will parking fees be a permanent fixture here at BC? “The ASG voted for this, there is nothing that says they can’t revote,” stated the interviewed faculty member, “a student can make a motion at anytime.” In the meantime, visit K-100, or check out for more information.