If you were to ask any commuter or resident student who attends UMass Lowell what their opinion is regarding the university’s parking decal prices, be prepared to listen to a five minute rant.
“Paying $400+ to park in inconvenient and insufficient lots is ridiculous. I would rather park on the street and risk getting parking tickets as it would probably end up being cheaper,” said sophomore Engineering major Tim Koufogazos.
Why are students so heated on this topic? Because as of six years ago, the University of Massachusetts Lowell had raised its parking decal prices for resident, faculty and commuter students to varying degrees as a result of high parking demand. To put this into perspective, Fitchburg State University’s decals for most students are $60 per semester, which only adds up to $120 for the whole year.
While students are probably most spirited on this issue, members of the university’s faculty are also affected.
“I do think that students and part-time faculty should get more relief. The price for parking shouldn’t deter or prevent someone from going to school or work. Also, I think parking could also be tiered by income and/or rank,” said Sue Kim, professor and associate chair of the English Department at UMass Lowell.
With that said, UMass Lowell does have its reasons for such high prices.
“In 2009 and 2010 we had what we classified as a ‘parking crisis’ where our demand for parking was so great that we just did not have the place to park everyone,” said Jon Victorine, head of the school’s parking division, UCAPS.
Since Lowell is the fourth smallest city in Massachusetts, the availability of parking has not been able to keep up with the rising student population that is now at 17,191. The more students attending the university, the more demand there is for parking.
To address this matter, a parking committee has been established at the university with members of the Student Government Association (SGA) to discuss the issue. Since then, the committee came to the conclusion that to fix the parking situation, they must increase inventory and decrease demand, for what Victorine calls Transportation Demand Management (TDM); however, increasing inventory has been difficult to implement because of the limited space.
“Like [UMass] Boston, we are limited in our ability to increase our inventory on-campus, so we are left with two options: build up [garages] or lease property,” said Victorine.
The school has done both, and as a result, the new parking garages on North and South Campus, along with the leased Ayotte garage on East Campus have been the university’s way of trying to combat the current parking situation by providing more space for those whom have a vehicle on campus.
Leasing property however has hidden transportation fees that are more expensive than the university anticipated. Victorine was unable to give specific figures, but he is certain they were simply too high to continue.
Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to alleviate the prices of decals, but that does not mean the university is not trying to look for ways to lessen the blow.
“Two years ago we implemented a ‘rate protection,’ which means that we will not increase the cost of parking for any student once they have started at the university any more than five percent annually, if we increase it at all,” said Victorine.
The Student Government Association is actively working with the university to develop assistance for students whom have severe financial needs.
“We haven’t finalized what this process will entail, but we feel it will be helpful for those who struggle to pay for parking in the fall,” said Victorine.