Wednesday, March 17, 2004

No parking equals no money for York

Written by Aliza Libman - Assistant News Editor
Wednesday, 17 March 2004

A report marked ‘confidential’ has predicted that parking and transportation services at York will have a $4.9 million deficit this year, while hundreds of parking spaces remain empty on campus.

According to the “Ancillary Operations Long Term Plan”, dated November 17, 2003, this deficit will continue until 2011-2012 and can be attributed to a recent campus building spurt.

“To [relieve] the loss of revenue, Parking will introduce significant cost-saving measures including … selective rate increases,” reads the report, which was presented by governor Timothy Price at the December 1, 2003 meeting of the Board of Governors (BOG). The report attributes the deficit to the costs of parking garages that the university has been “required to construct”.Andy Wickens, assistant vice-president campus services and business operations, says that the current operating deficit of parking should be no cause for concern. He explains that it has been budgeted for, and spread over the next number of years, a common practice when building.

In the last two years the campus has seen the addition of two parking garages. According to Trudy Pound-Curtis, assistant vice-president finance and chief financial officer, the garages were built to accommodate the double cohort.

“When you add buildings and have more square footage, you have to add [parking] spaces,” Pound-Curtis says, explaining that this is a city council bylaw.

In order to fund the two new structures, the university took out a $68 million dollar loan, she continues.

However, many of the new spaces lie vacant. In an October 21 interview, Tom Arnold, executive director of security, parking and transportation services at York, told Excalibur that there are more than enough spaces to park on campus.

“There is plenty of available parking,” says Arnold. “On any given day, we have over 1,200 vacant parking spots.”

Since that interview, a new parking structure – the Student Services Centre garage – has opened, creating 1,367 new spaces. In the mid-afternoon of a Tuesday – York’s most crowded day of the week – cars occupied only one and a half of the lot’s four floors.

On the same day at the same time, the entire top floor of the Arboretum parking garage was vacant. According to parking services, the Arboretum lot, which opened in September 2002, has 781 parking spots.

Wickens explains that many spots are vacant because York has been pushing to shift students away from driving to York alone, and towards public transit and carpooling.

“We actually have fewer cars on campus now,” he says.

He defends the decision to build the sparsely occupied garages, explaining that many surface lots in the south of the campus will be closing down in coming years.

York community members can park at the Arboretum parking garage (PS2) and the Student Services Centre parking garage (PS3) for $13 a day, a price that many think is so steep that they park only at the other, less expensive lots.

“I’ve had to mortgage my house because of the $1,000 [I pay for parking],” says second year history student Shira Stanleigh, who parks in lot eight. “I do not have the monetary wealth to support such an undertaking.”

Stanleigh’s reason for parking so far from her classes is simple, she says. The cost of parking in the closer parking structures is too much.
“I don’t have a second house to mortgage,” she says.

However, Wickens defends the cost of parking: “Parking has to fund itself.”

Fifth year philosophy major Zulma Mejia says she only drives to York occasionally because of the prohibitive cost of parking on campus.

Mejia is not surprised that spots in the new garages are sitting empty.
“I don’t know how many people are willing to pay $13 a day,” she says.
Other students have developed their own ways to get around parking fees they consider excessive. One first year law and society student, who asked only to be identified as M, says that he does not pay for parking because it is too expensive.

“I park for free,” he says, noting that he only rarely gets ticketed. He adds that parking in the new garages is much too expensive for him to consider.

“$13 is a lot,” M concludes. “If it was five dollars a day, I think they’d get more people.”


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