Proposed changes to parking policy would institute new zones, hours
Student will see dramatic changes to Washington University’s parking policy should a proposed system be implemented for the 2017-2018 school year.
If implemented, parking permits would be given for specific zones—instead of the colored permits the University currently uses—and sophomores will no longer be allowed to have cars on campus. Students would also lose the ability to park on the Danforth Campus from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. in order to accommodate faculty and staff.
While the University has factored on-campus construction—specifically, the East End expansion, which will start after this year’s Commencement—into the equation when discussing parking changes, these changes are intended to last beyond the construction projects.
From colors to zones
Currently, students, faculty and staff who purchase on-campus passes can choose between a number of colored options. Although permit holders can only park in certain colored spots, they can park in those spots located anywhere on campus, not one specific area.
Around 65 percent of spaces are yellow-colored, but students may also buy blue parking passes if they live in the Village, Millbrook Apartments or in fraternity houses, while students who live on the South 40 may purchase brown passes. All of these passes come with the same $699 price tag, but some faculty and staff opt for the $1,680 red permit, which is valid in all parking zones during the school year except blue.
In the new proposed system, permit holders would have to choose to park only in one of five zones on campus: the East End Garage, the South Danforth Core (including the Danforth University Center Garage), the North Danforth Core (Snow Way and Millbrook Garages), the South 40 and remote parking (West and North Campuses). Once a zone fills up, however, no more permits for that zone will be issued.
Students living in Residential Life housing will be allowed to purchase permits in the North Danforth Core, the South 40 and remote parking. However, the remote parking zone will be the only area that students who don’t live in Residential Life housing will be able to purchase permits for, but Associate Vice Chancellor for Students Rob Wild said that this change is not to encourage students to live in ResLife housing.
The goal of this proposed policy, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Operations Tara Bone said, is to make sure that the University provides enough parking resources to meet the demand.
“What we recognized, at least a year ago, was that we had a need to really take a look at our parking and transportation program and really develop a long-term strategy for it, because we have known that our resources have not been aligned, in terms of the capacity compared to the usage or the demand,” Bone said.
Wild noted that the problem with the current system is not that there aren’t enough parking spots on campus, but rather that the spots aren’t always available at the right places and right times. He stressed that the new plan was not meant to prioritize faculty and staff, but to assign parking based on the needs of the population that needs it the most at that time.
Bone also noted that the goal of the strategy was to meet demand at any given time while also providing some leeway when manageable.
“That was one of the very first important steps that we took, was, who are our users, and how do they access and use our resources? What times of day? And how can we create a strategy that really supports where the largest demand is, but also gives our campus community flexibility outside of those high demand times,” Bone said.
Wild added that the University might add more Enterprise CarShare vehicles in order to increase the ease with which students who don’t own cars can borrow them.
“Apparently, if you need to rent a car at Tuesday at 11, there’s plenty of cars available. But if you want to go on a Friday night or a Saturday afternoon, that’s where the demand for those exceeds supply. So one thing we may be able to do is add more car sharing options in student residential areas,” Wild said.
The University has decided to implement this long-term parking policy change to also accommodate the challenges created by construction on the East End of campus. A new underground parking garage will replace the current above-ground parking, but before the garage is constructed, there will be a limited number of spaces available on that end of campus.
The garage, Wild said, will be more attractive than the current surface parking and will make the East End of campus more pedestrian-friendly.
“We’re fairly landlocked and, if anything, we want more green space on the Danforth Campus and less asphalt. And so, having a large parking lot is challenging,” Wild said.
No more cars for sophomores
The University does not currently allow freshmen to have cars on campus, but students of all other classes can purchase parking permits. Under the new parking plan, however, sophomores would no longer be able to park their cars on campus.
Under the current parking strategy, freshmen can request to have a car on campus through a program facilitated by Wild, but he said only 5-7 students a year submit requests, most of which are rejected. Wild said that with the change, freshmen and sophomores might have different likelihoods of obtaining permits.
“I think that’s something we’ll have to talk about—is there more flexibility for sophomores to be able to purchase a West Campus permit,” Wild said.
While the West Campus lot is further than the other options, it comes at a reduced price, as a permit for West Campus is only $15.
While West Campus parking is accessible by Metro, but the University is planning to run an additional shuttle to and from West Campus in order to make the zone more accessible and to facilitate the use of that parking option.
Bone said that parking prices will likely rise next year, but noted that the more affordable West Campus option will still be there.
Only 11 percent of second-year students bought parking permits last year, but students who do have cars on campus said their vehicles were more than just for convenience purposes.
Sophomore Juliana Berlin said that having a car on campus has allowed her to switch to a lower meal plan and save money on food.
“I love having a car on campus. I didn’t think I would use it as much as I do, but now that I have it, it’s very convenient to go out for meals, especially since I’m on the bronze plan. So, I can supplement my meals with off-campus food,” Berlin said.
Sophomore Caroline Francis said that not allowing students to have cars is counter to Washington University’s push to get students to explore St. Louis outside of the areas immediately surrounding campus.
“The administration really pushes us to step outside of the Wash. U. bubble, and I think it’s hard enough to do that if you have to use public transportation, but reducing the number of people who have cars will make that much harder. They can’t have it both ways,” Francis said.
Freshman Lucas Florence, who was planning on bringing a car next year, said he thinks having cars would be helpful for students who work or live off campus.
“I think it’s really disappointing. I feel like access to a car can be really crucial if you get an off-campus job or internship, or if you want to live off campus sophomore year,” Florence said.
Seeking student input
While the parking policy has been in the works for over a year, before coming up with a final plan, Washington University administrators wanted to speak with the student body.
Bone has met with around 15 student groups to discuss the changes and ask students for their opinions, although she noted that the University had already thought hard about potential student concerns.
“It is fair to say there’s some details of those concerns that we’ve learned a lot about over the last month and half,” Bone said. “But from a high level standpoint, I don’t know that there have been concerns that have come that aren’t already on our list and we had already recognized that those items could be of concern.”
Senior and Student Union senator Nicole Nemec said that students ultimately have little ability to change the University’s parking policy after Bone presented to Senate last week.
“At the end of the day, we just sat through a presentation of the University telling us that they made a decision about something we care about and we have no choice in changing that,” Nemec said. “You can say you want students to have input, but the University is the decision maker.”
Additional Reporting by Desi Isaacson