University students shouldn’t have to pay for parking at campus

Being a student is already a heavy financial load and parking fees only contribute to our financial stress

Paying for parking at campus only adds to students' financial stress. (File photo)

Paying for parking at campus only adds to students’ financial stress. (File photo)

The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) is drawing anger over its decision to increase parking fees starting Feb. 1. The Burnaby, Downtown, and Marine campuses will see daily parking prices rise to $6.50, $9.25, and $20.25. 

A petition was launched calling for the cancellation of the price hike with a goal of 2,500 signatures. It says the student body was not informed about the parking rate increase until flyers were distributed on campus, meaning those likely to be affected were not consulted. 

Inflation has created ever-increasing costs of living, making the already challenging life of university students harder to handle. For BCIT students, on-campus parking is hard to come by with few good off-site alternatives. Add in the school’s demanding full-time schedule, which “usually consists of six to eight rigorous courses per semester” as stated on BCIT’s website, alongside the lack of any option to pay hourly rates, many students are feeling the squeeze. 

BCIT’s email response states that the price rise brings BCIT “more in line with parking prices at similar institutions.” This gives away the bigger game as this is not an isolated issue. “For-profit-parking,” as we ought to be calling it, is an issue across all university campuses. 

University of Fraser Valley (UFV) students have similar pay parking headaches with arbitrary fees and no immediately available spots. I live near Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus and avoid its pay parking lot when visiting the attached shopping mall. 

At Kwantlen Polytechnic University, I’ve had classes at the Richmond, Surrey, and Langley campuses. Logistics and having a U-Pass means I’ve never had to park a car at KPU Richmond. There’s a residential area a 10-minute walk away from KPU’s Surrey campus, so I quit using its parking lot a long time ago. KPU Langley is an island by comparison. A car ride from my house to the campus takes 30 to 40 minutes compared to TransLink’s offered bus route of one hour and 15-minutes. There are not any suitable no-pay spots nearby, so Langley campus takes my money. 

KPU is not the worst rate-wise, with $1 for 30 minutes, $2 for one hour, $3 for 90 minutes, or $5 for the day. Classes typically last just over two hours, so the math dictates that a three hour spot would be $6, meaning day parking is the only logical choice. 

It’s no help that the alternative rates are nonsensical to most students who would very rarely be on campus for less than three hours, but we should not lose sight of how KPU could easily do what BCIT has done. One day we might get a paper flier announcing a $4 rise in pay parking because it is supposedly “more in line with parking prices at similar institutions.” 

Perhaps all of this is the logical outcome of car culture. When infrastructure leans heavily towards automobiles, and at the expense of other transportation modes, then you will find that certain actors, such as Concord Pacific, will work tirelessly to extract every cent possible out of drivers. What better way than by extorting money to rent asphalt and painted lines? 

Even with our TransLink system in place, one cannot escape the feeling that cars rule the streets. University students like us should not be charged even more for education than we already are. We face two choices: keep quiet and see our prices shoot up, or find a new way of thinking about how KPU and TransLink approach transportation.