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Parking at SFU is the fucking worst

If you look at other universities’ parking systems, it’s clear we have to up our game

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Image Credits: Alexa Tarrayo

I am not the first to say that parking at SFU Burnaby is the fucking worst. Anyone who has driven to campus and tried to find a spot can attest that unless you’re here at 8:30 a.m., or after 5:30 p.m., you have to pray to the parking gods for a decent space.

Now, of course there are other options. There’s bussing, walking, and various other modes of self-propelled transportation. Lots of people use those methods to commute every day. Just looking at last semester, there was around 30,000 students, graduate and undergraduate, enroled in classes at SFU. There will always be students who drive to school for one reason or another. Continuing to ignore that entire demographic is negligent of the university.

On top of being inconvenient, parking is expensive. At $3.25 an hour for the occasional commuter, $280 per semester for a pass to the overcrowded outdoor parking lots, and almost $400 per semester for a ‘no-guarantee’ indoor pass, it is pretty clear the Burnaby campus is at a crossroads.

Anyone dropping this kind of cash on a parking space should have the peace of mind that they will be able to park. And yet, here we are. In 2014 — back when those outside lots were called B, C, and Discovery P3 (because that naming scheme makes so much sense) — SFU sold 2,300 permits for fewer than 2,000 stalls. SFU is assuming not everyone is going to need a spot at once, and they are wrong.

Many groups on campus, including the SFSS, have pledged to address the commuter culture at SFU, but I don’t see how that is possible so long as the administration is banking on students not sticking around all day.

SFU needs to do better by their commuting students, staff, and faculty

I’m sure there’s an algorithm somewhere that dictates this makes sense. It’s a parking industry standard to oversell permits at 20–40 percent over capacity. However, this results in people who use the parking lots getting screwed over. The permits sold are monthly, with non-standard parking permits for evenings and weekends. But everyone has different schedules that can’t be accounted for, like occasional users who don’t buy a permit. An entire contingent of the parking calculation is overlooked, and this is what messes up everyone’s parking experiences.

Parking at SFU Surrey isn’t a picnic either. Visitor parking only costs a dollar an hour, and student parking permits cost less than $130 for an entire semester. Unfortunately, student permits are assigned by lottery. Don’t get a permit? Then you’re shit out of luck for the semester.

I wish I could say the Vancouver campus is better, but I’d be lying. SFU Parking recommends four parking lots. Of the recommended lots outside of Harbour Centre locations, only one offers student discounted rates. And those hours are from 2 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. That’s great if you only take an evening class or two, but if Vancouver’s your main campus then you’re competing with everyone else in downtown Vancouver who wants to park their car.

Of course, there are other options that involve taking your car, but are easier on the wallet — and possibly on your luck of finding a spot. Maybe you’ve heard of it before, it’s a phenomenon known as carpooling. And though it’s seen decreased popularity in recent years, maybe it’s time for it to make a comeback.

Not a lot of students know that SFU is a member of the Jack Bell Rideshare program. What’s worse is that a lot of students have probably never even heard of this program. The Jack Bell Rideshare program connects people who need rides in order to lessen the financial burden on all parties involved.

It’s a great idea, but aside from saving a few dollars on gas, there’s not enough of an incentive to carpool. Since SFU students commute from all over the Lower Mainland, finding people who live near you and who keep the same hours is nearly impossible.

Maybe we need to look at how other post-secondary institutions deal with parking. I used to work at UBC and there was always somewhere to park — it was a wonderful thing. The prices were comparable, but I didn’t have the agonizing stress of struggling to find an open lot.

Capilano University has the same space-crunch that all SFU campuses are experiencing. In response, they’ve decided to reward students who carpool. There are designated carpool spots — and, oh yeah, you park for free. You read that right. If you register your carpool group of three or more people, you get a permit that gives you free parking in those designated spots.

Can you imagine a world where you could park at SFU for free? I recognize that there are financial concerns tied to reducing parking fees, but even half-price carpool permits would be fantastic. Section off parts of the outside lots to be carpool spaces only, make students register a carpool group in order to get a pass, and then patrol those lots a little more. SFU needs to do better by their commuting students, staff, and faculty.

I’ve been here two years. I like to drive to school. Half-price parking would make the effort of finding people to carpool with worth it. It would be better for our pockets, better for our environment, and better for our futures.

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