Qualms pertaining to on-campus parking

Photo by Tyler Meuter

In any metropolitan area, parking is always at a premium. This is especially true here on campus, where we have students, staff, faculty, alumni and visitors on campus every day. With the campus parking facilities as trafficked as they are, and as expensive as an annual individual permit is, you’d figure that Parking & Transportation Services (PTS) would try to hold itself to higher standards to please its customer base. Unfortunately, that isn’t what happens here. Tech’s parking services are expensive, of an insufficient quantity and are often double-rented due to events.

The prices for an annual individual permit (same price for student/faculty/staff) for the 2015-16 academic year is $776. This is an 18 percent increase (approximately a 3.6 percent increase year over year) from the $657 price in 2011. What exactly are we getting for this  approximately 4 percent increase each year? PTS has a colorful chart on their website explaining where your permit dollar goes, but there is something missing. What exactly is the increase for? What new benefits do these extra funds bring us? Sure, they give you a breakdown of percentages for utilities, personnel and loan payments but not what is changing to justify the year-over-year increase. I don’t see new parking decks getting built. If anything, PTS is losing parking spaces with all of the construction going on around campus. It seems as though  they are trying to make up for the decrease in space by bumping up the prices. There is certainly no tangible benefit that we the people see from the increase.

If you are not one of the lucky ones to get a permit in a zone close to your residence hall (provided you live on campus) or close to your academic buildings, you are forced to either park somewhere inconvenient or fend for yourself in open parking areas such as Centennial Homes by the North Avenue Apartments. For example, look at the Student Center. The small lot just southeast between the Transit Hub and the Commons used to be a visitor parking lot, but it has since been converted into predominantly service vehicles and handicapped spaces. The visitor lot on Bobby Dodd behind the fraternity house of Alpha Epsilon Pi was converted into ER51-permit-only parking. E40 (Turner Street, behind Couch) was also recently removed from the list of approved after-hours non-residential lots. One of the most convenient places to park when visiting friends on West Campus as a non-residential lot is now a prime spot for PTS to give tickets to unknowing permit holders trying to use their after-hours perks. With the renovations in progress on Sixth Street along the SAC fields and the Burger Bowl, a decent number of WR29 spots have also been removed in favor of a bike lane and landscaping. The once large lot between Woodruff and Eighth Street was reduced in size to make room for a storage area. The number of people seeking parking is increasing while the supply of available spaces is decreasing. Who is to say that PTS will not further bump up the cost to make up for their losses in revenue?

Once during my freshman year, I parked in Peter’s Deck (E52) since I lived in one of the Freshman Experience dorms across the street. Every week of a home football game I would await the email saying I had to move my car because they wanted to push out the permit holders to make more money for the football fans. The lots that I, and the other hundred or so other permit holders, paid $700 to park in were turned into additional profit for PTS on top of what we already paid them. In fact, for home football games alone, over 40 percent of the available lots on campus are reserved for separate-paying football fans. This does not even account for the swimming and diving events that take over parking on West Campus or events at the Ferst Center that take up the Student Center deck and surrounding areas. Permit holders, in either of these cases, are instructed to move their vehicles to some inconvenient lot on the opposite side of campus or face the wrath of their towing company of choice plus a ticket. For me, I usually ended up at E70 by the GTRI conference center on 14th Street.

All of these issues culminate into a giant headache for the car-owners on campus. They are frustrated because the cost of their parking permit is increasing without a clear explanation why. Time is wasted driving around trying to find parking spots around campus because parking lots and spaces are being reclaimed by construction or re-zoning. Additionally, permit holders are forced to relocate their vehicles during events. Greater transparency and detail in how the permit funds are spent and the reasoning behind the annual increases would go a long way in reassuring individuals that the permits are worth  the amount they are paying for them. Increasing fees for tangible benefits is one thing, but without a clear reason, it raises questions. Providing more convenient options for relocation on game days would also be much appreciated. If PTS would consider making small changes to their operations for the better, it would go a long way towards improving the customer experience. For the amount we pay, we deserve better.