Same parking rates year round?

Illustration by Kevin Chinn

Bellevue College once had the luxury of offering free parking to all students and faculty. After all, we pay enough as it is for tuition, textbooks and other college expenses. It costs $65 for everyday parking a quarter and for three quarters it is about $200. Add another year to attending BC and you get $400 just for parking! I was absolutely appalled when discovering that summer parking permit passes were required, or I would have to pay to park if I am only visiting campus for a few hours.

In 2011, Seattle Times reported that when determining the pricing for parking, “The price should be cheap enough that most of the metered spaces and city parking lots are always almost full,” but not so inexpensive that there are no available parking spaces. The thing about BC is that during summer, there is so much more parking available than the other quarters. Finding a parking place in the mornings or afternoons isn’t a quest; it’s to be expected almost immediately. Then why are we still paying the same rates for a parking pass and daily parking if there is more available parking on campus?

Parking passes still cost $65 for everyday parking or $35 for twice a week. Even if you are only coming to school twice a week, you are still paying over $100 to park at BC for three quarters.

It makes sense that charging for parking during fall, winter and spring quarter is in effect because there is constant congestion on campus due to the fact that more students are attempting to find a parking place. Paying for parking offers an incentive for students to carpool, ride their bike, bus, walk or find another mode of transportation to school to free up parking spaces. Parking fees can also be positive because it helps pay for the student discounted bus passes, parking lot maintenance and enforcement (which is just another way to say that part of what we pay for parking pays for salaries of the people who make sure we have paid).

All of the parking fees make sense during busier quarters, but when over half the campus is empty, BC should offer either free or reduced parking during the summer quarter. Many students attend school the same number of days as previous quarters but for shorter periods of time.

I have to give BC’s Sustainability Department credit for their efforts to provide options to the students. Deric Gruen, BC’s Sustainability and Resource Conservation Manager has worked hard to offer various transportation options for students to reduce parking demands. One of the latest parking plans offered to students is a discounted parking pass in lots further away from campus.

In a couple of years, BC will be planning to use lots 2 and 4 for a health and sciences building. I can even see the price of parking passes during fall, winter and spring quarter increase in order to keep up with the decreased parking capacity. However, summer quarter will still have empty lots and should not require students to have to pay the same prices as the other quarters.

The bottom line is that during summer quarter, the demand for parking is significantly smaller than the other three quarters of the year. People are enrolled in fewer classes and remain on campus for shorter periods of times. Therefore we should not be subject to pay the same outstanding rates during a season in which most people are generally on break.