(Photo courtesy of Kyra Barry) “An example of the parking lots available for students. This is one of the only ones available for UCrossing, a hub of student activity.”
Parking at UMass Lowell can be quite an experience, and students most likely know the difficulty of finding a parking spot on campus. Whether it’s getting a $25 ticket or walking a far distance to get to class, the pain is understandable. Every day, students struggle to find parking spots, often battling other students for one single parking spot. In the eyes of students who have already paid thousands of dollars to attend the school—and countless other fees the school charges—it is unnecessary to charge students for a parking spot they need to get to their class on time. It is also unreasonable for students to pay $450 for a parking pass for select lots.
Patrick Cote, a UMass Lowell senior, voiced his opinion on the situation. Cote says, “I have never bought a parking pass, and I believe that receiving multiple tickets is better than getting the $450 parking pass as a whole.” Many people have agreed with Cote’s statement because a handful of $25 tickets still do not amount to the price of the parking pass, but students are still losing money. Cote says that almost halfway into the spring semester, he has already received about five parking tickets. Those tickets cost less than half of what a regular pass would cost, including the ones Cote received from the previous semester.
Although some students might still be inclined to buy the parking pass rather than take in a bunch of tickets, the problem is that students are limited to parking in specific lots. For example, residents of East Campus are only allowed to park in the East Campus parking lots, which is reasonable if they are North Campus majors with all of their classes on North—they can just make the short walk there. However, the main issue for East Campus residents is having classes on South Campus, where they are unable to park due to the parking pass restrictions. This puts people in the situation of either having to spend more money to use ParkMobile or parking in a spot where tickets are given out. Either way, more money is being lost on top of the parking pass that was paid for.
When asked what improvements could be made, Cote proposed adding more floors to the garages because it wouldn’t take up any more ground space and would also create more parking opportunities for the school. This would also benefit snow days because, during parking bans, the garages end up completely full, and people who don’t even have parking passes either tailgate someone in the garage or use their friend’s pass, taking parking spots that people paid upwards of $400 for.
Paulo Pinheiro, director of UCard, Access and Parking Services (UCAPS), offered some valuable statistics regarding parking at UMass Lowell. The data collected from this year so far shows that 5,306 students have obtained a parking pass and 5,625 tickets have been given out this school year. The average number of tickets given out per month is a staggering 937, which also averages out to about 31 tickets a day. Most of these tickets have been given out in metered parking lots.
When asked about potentially lowering the price of the parking passes, Paulo said, “The current prices haven’t increased since 2016 and currently aren’t enough to cover the debt service on the garages that have been built. We do have a Financial Hardship process for students that require a parking pass but have extenuating financial hardships.” It seems to be easier said than done to make these seemingly small changes for parking. But, looking at the big picture, there are factors that are deterring these changes from being made as soon as possible. Money seems to be the biggest issue on both sides of the situation, as the money received from parking passes and other parking services is used to pay for the investment debts for parking garages and lots. These debts are still being paid off.
The difficulties with parking can cause students to lose motivation to even go to class, as they would rather not waste their time waiting around for one open spot. Although there is the option of taking the shuttle, many people would find it more convenient to drive their car to class and not have to wait for the shuttle to arrive. Whether it is opening more lots, building bigger garages or making parking passes cheaper, all of those options are better than the current system in place now. Rather than paying $450 for selective lots, maybe lowering the price to $200 would make a big difference and also attract more students to buy passes.