Gas, economy lead to costly parking permits

Due to the limited amount of parking spaces available on campus, Tech students are lucky to receive their first-choice parking zone pass. Even with nearly 13,000 parking spaces, Tech’s parking spaces quickly fill up. Parking and Transportation is currently undergoing the process of creating a new master plan and reevaluating how to build parking decks up without being able to build out into the rest of Atlanta.

Parking and Transportation is a self-supporting entity and does not receive state funding. Because of this, over 50 percent of the parking permit money goes directly into paying off parking deck debts and bonds and towards maintenance services. A standard parking pass valid in one zone is $590 and a reserved space is $675, not including the cost of the permit.

Tech’s parking spaces gradually open up during the semester and Parking and Transportation can contact students who may wish to change their assigned parking zone for better accessibility. Tech has more deck parking than surface parking, which is more expensive to construct and upkeep. This further contributes to the added parking costs.

Rising gas prices have also indirectly added to the increase in parking permit costs. “Parking [permit] costs are more related to the cost of doing business,” said Lance Lunsway, director of Parking and Transportation. “It has more to do with building the structures, the maintenance costs and because [we] contract out.” The businesses that built Tech’s parking decks have had to raise their own prices in the past due to the increased costs in materials like steel, fuel, equipment and labor.

“Gas prices have a more direct impact on the people who drive than [parking permits] do,” Lunsway said.

Students at university campuses across the U.S. are not faring any differently when it comes to purchasing space to park. Residents at UCLA pay about $475 a semester to keep their cars on campus, while Boston University on-campus residents pay a grand total of $1,087.80 annually. Students at Emory University pay $654 for an annual parking pass, and Georgia State University collects $85 per month from its loft residents.

According to data obtained from Parking and Transportation, Tech’s parking permit cost ranks in the lower third compared to its peer institutions. It is also the second cheapest parking permit found in Midtown, only losing out to the cost of permits offered by Georgia Power.

Many universities offer a reduced parking permit rate for students who carpool or drive more eco-friendly cars, further benefiting campus residents who choose to live by this “green initiative”. Annual or semester parking prices are significantly lower for these drivers, sometimes as much as $100 or more than regularly zoned parking spaces. Tech is considering the possibility of charging a monthly or per semester fee for some spaces if there is a proven demand.

“We want to find ways [for students] to get around without a vehicle and do it safely,” Lunsway said. “Our campus parking plan just kicked off last month. [In the meantime], we’re meeting with some student leaders to interact with visions and what the quality [of parking] should be in ten, twenty years.”

Students are constantly finding new methods of transportation. “A few years ago, I thought we’d see a lot of Segways,” Lunsway said. “Instead, we’re seeing a lot more of bike and moped use.” These alternative modes of transportation are causing Parking and Transportation to consider new regulations for these vehicles to keep Tech students safe.

One of these potential regulations includes treating mopeds more like motorcycles. This would require the creation of new parking spaces and the necessity for these owners to purchase a parking permit for their vehicles.

As Tech plans on moving more parking to the outskirts of campus, Lunsway said there is a higher likelihood that Parking and Transportation will build parking decks instead of surface lots. Parking decks are more expensive to create, and Lunsway believes parking permit prices will continue to rise as a result.

Student parking passes are good for one year and can be purchased through the Department of Parking and Transportation. First-semester students cannot purchase parking permits, another result of Tech’s limited parking. However, with Parking’s potential new plans, more parking opportunities for underclassmen may arise in the future.

Local campuses like Emory and GSU are also accessible by MARTA if parking is unavailable. By calling 404-727-PARK, students are provided with maps and directions to Emory parking, while GSU’s Parking and Transportation Services can be contacted at 404-413-9500. Parking decks are also available for visitors, like in Tech Square behind the Tech Hotel and the Student Center Visitor Lot adjacent to the Student Center.