Parking wars

(Megan Cooke/AQ)
Each morning the parking wars begin (Megan Cooke/AQ)

Finding a parking spot at St. Thomas University gives many students and staff members headaches. They say more parking permissions are sold than there are parking spots.

UNB Campus Security and Traffic supervisor Bob MacLean denies this.

“We have enough spaces for people to park here. We don’t oversell permits. We just don’t offer convenient parking.”

So far into the academic year, campus police has written 1,100 to 1,200 parking tickets to drivers who haven’t purchased a permission.

Since the parking lots closest to STU buildings are usually full in the early mornings, most STU drivers have to park on a big lot starting behind the neighbouring NBCC and ending behind the Aitken University Center.

Michael Tingly, a fourth-year student at STU, has classes at 8:30 a.m. In order to be on time, he has to plan for everything, from being stuck behind a bus or walking 10 minutes from where he parked his car.

“It’s not very convenient. Our parking lot is just small. It needs to be upgraded, because of the demand of the students. I don’t like walking and being late for class,” he said.

Although STU has some designated staff parking areas, many faculty members face the same situation as their students. Psychology and criminology student Reba Lowe said her professors came late to class, because they couldn’t find a parking spot.

“I’ve also had professors tell me that they’ve had to, for a 10, 11 o’clock class, come to campus at like 8:30 and just hang out and do office work to guarantee they’ve had a parking spot,” she said.

Lowe doesn’t own a car. Although STU’s parking situation wasn’t a major factor in her decision, she said if there’s no place to park a vehicle, she might as well walk to campus.

Debbie Arbeau and Gloria Brown have been working at STU for over 20 years. Both start at 6 a.m. and park their car before the Vanier residence. Brown said, years ago, they left their car on a lot where now James Dunn Hall stands. With more buildings and more students, Brown and Arbeau agree that STU needs to build more parking spots.

“When you have an appointment or something, and you have to leave and come back, you can’t get a parking place,” said Arbeau.

Brown is already thinking about her clinic appointment next month. She said it’s at 7:45 a.m. and she will probably walk up to the hospital, because otherwise she won’t find a parking spot on her way back.

MacLean, from UNB security, compared finding a parking space with “playing the lottery.” Whether you’re lucky or not depends on the time you arrive on campus.

“There’s no difference for me. If I come here at 10 o’clock and there’s no parking, I end up way back there. That’s just the way it is. And I pay more money to park, because I’m staff-faculty,” MacLean said.

A full-year parking permission costs $153 for staff and $101 for students. Prices went up this year, a decision that was made by the universities’ management said MacLean. Many students say it’s too much and the universities should upgrade parking. MacLean wasn’t happy either about paying $24 more.

STU director of communications Jeffrey Carleton said costs of maintaining parking lots were responsible for the rise in parking fees. He added the price STU students and staff have to pay for an annual parking permission is what many others at bigger Canadian universities have to pay on a monthly basis.

“Even in Fredericton, downtown, the parking fees are in the orders of 65 to 85 dollars per month,” Carleton said.

Macleans Magazine on campus published the top 10 schools with the cheapest and most expensive parking on July 5, 2011.

STU and UNB made it to the top five schools with the lowest parking fees with $75 and $94. Ryerson University in Toronto and McGill University in Montreal were the top two with the highest parking rates with $1017 and $990 in 2011. Today, parking at McGill is $528 per term. For underground parking at Ryerson, students have to spend $1,205.94.

However, back at STU there is enough parking. MacLean estimated 1,200 to 1,300 available parking spots on upper campus hill. Besides Vanier, Edmund Casey, Holy Cross and the big lot at the Aitken Centre, drivers can station their car down at UNB’s soccer field or behind Mcleod House where even a camera is installed for security.

“I know the back lot [behind the Aitken Center] is not totally attractive. We do have some barriers up there in that parking lot. We found that a lot of people were making their own spaces there blocking the roads.”

Although there isn’t a motorcycle parking area at STU, MacLean said as long as bikers find a place towards the end of a parking line where they don’t interfere with traffic, there’s no problem.

“We don’t force them to buy a permit. But if they take a parking space, then they’re taking a paid person’s spot.”

Carleton said the only designated parking areas are for the president, the three vice-presidents, the two deans and the assistant vice-president of research. Another reserved spot is for delivery purposes and also some accessibility spaces.

“If you want to park adjacent to where the building you want to be in – because there’s more cars, and we don’t have reserve spaces, because we’re not charging for reserved spaces – then you simply have to plan your day or your arrival accordingly.”

Carleton said the university is not planning to create new parking spots, but discusses about updating the bigger lot behind NBCC.

“We have a small campus and we certainly wouldn’t want to take any of the green space away to create five, 10, 15 parking spaces.”

An early riser himself, Carleton arrives on campus at 7 a.m. and usually parks in the same spot.

“However, when I go home at lunch, I’m in the same boat as you are. When it’s a nice day, I enjoy the walk. When it’s not a good day, I feel the students and other people feel the same way. But I know it’s a reality of the circumstances.”

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