Paying for parking in Union lot may not be as bad as it sounds


Editorial Board

Turning The Union’s east lot into a pay lot may seem like a bad idea at first glance.

Some students may never park in that lot because they don’t want to pay an extra fee after already spending a considerable amount of money on a parking decal. They won’t find it fair that they can’t park in that lot even though they’ve paid $120 for a commuter decal.

Or, some students may get upset if the parking lot is empty some days. They won’t think it’s fair that they have to walk five minutes from the library lot when they could have parked right in front of The Union.

But for some students, the new plan wouldn’t change their lives much. They already can’t park in that lot between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., because the lot is full with the cars of visitors, residence hall students and some commuters. They already know that it’s often better to look in the HPER lot or the library lot during peak hours.

Those students have also seen that half the east lot sits open many days under the current system. Event organizers pay to reserve those parking spots for their visitors, so students can’t park in half the lot for most of the day.

So in the end, it’s possible that the plan may not change students’ lives too much, and in some ways, the pay lot could actually benefit students.

For example, some students chose not to buy a parking decal this year. These students can easily bike on decent days, but especially in the winter, sometimes biking will not be safe with all the ice and snow.

Paying to park in the Union lot every day won’t be an economical option for anyone, but it could help those students who only park on campus a couple of days a year or who are willing to pay because they are late for a midterm exam.

The pay lot could also be advantageous to customers of the food service centers or the University Bookstore. Jennifer Novotny, director of The Union, said at a Students’ Association meeting that sometimes retail centers will pay for their patrons’ parking. These centers could work out a deal with The Union so that if they validate the patrons’ parking slip, then that person would not have to pay for their parking when they exit. Instead, the retail centers would somehow pay The Union for the spaces used by their patrons.

If a deal like that is made with the Bookstore, a student could potentially park in The Union lot essentially for free if they just need to quickly return a book. Or if an off-campus student wants to try out Einstein Bros. Bagels when it comes to The Union next year, they might be able to park in that lot at no cost to them instead of parking out in a commuter lot.

Finally, some of the revenue from the pay lot could benefit students. Novotny said other comparable universities get good revenue from their pay lots. The money raised above and beyond the start-up and maintenance costs of the lot could go back into The Union to improve such places as Jacks’ Place for students. Or, The Union might not use as many student fee dollars due to the additional revenue stream. If that becomes the case, then those student fee dollars could go to bringing in big-name concerts or funding other student activities.

In both circumstances, as with many of the above situations, students benefit.