Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Place for People Going Places… After They Find Parking

Nothing ruins the college morning routine of guzzling coffee, throwing on sweatpants and expertly arriving to class with one minute to spare like searching for a parking space. For many UMKC students, this struggle is all too relatable.

“I have just not gone to class before because I could not find parking,” admitted sophomore Katelyn Kolle.

Like Kolle, most can recall missing or being late to an on-campus activity, job or course due to this lack of availability.

Others expressed their frustration towards having to dole out change for the typically more vacant metered parking option, despite having paid for a pass. This brings up another widely voiced student complaint: parking cost.

“I paid a little over $300 for a three-semester pass,” said senior Sarthak Garg, “The equivalent of 48 Chipotle bowls and a bag of chips.”

Kolle and senior Nicole Bickford bemoaned this amount as ridiculous. However, other students view UMKC’s parking fees as reasonable and better than their educational counterparts.

Junior Elizabeth Sites measured the cost as “very affordable” in comparison to the University of Arkansas, which she previously attended. Sites stated that she paid about $500 each semester. Meanwhile, UMKC permit prices ranged from $115 to $171 this semester, according to the Parking and Transportation website.

At fellow Missouri school Northwest Missouri State University, senior transfer student Shelby Bessette had to pay just $90 per year for parking. Nearby at the University of Kansas, junior Tori Kilkenny spends $137.50 each semester to park.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, transfer student and junior Meghan Fuller reminisced that parking was free at Johnson County Community College (JCCC).

“It [is] a commuter campus,” Fuller explained. “They have no choice.”

Yet as UMKC records from 2015 indicate, commuter schools do have a choice: one that places JCCC and UMKC in opposition. UMKC can also be categorized as a commuter school, with only an estimated 1,600 students—out of a total of 16,699 enrolled—living on campus, according to statistics published by the university.

In fact, UMKC’s parking costs can often prove challenging for the very students they uniquely embrace: commuter, nontraditional and continuing attendees.

For example, Bessette’s unusual status as a student teacher taking only one on-campus class makes parking an especially complex issue for her.

“This semester I am debating whether or not I should buy an evening pass. I am going to be on campus at night now for my one class, and sorority events,” said Bessette. “I think it’s dumb that the pass is only valid after 4:15, which is after I get to campus, because I try to get [here] around 4 pm when I have a class at 4:30.”

For junior and father Mitchell Cook, the need to return home and spend time with his children between classes compounds parking difficulties. Instead of finding parking only once a day, he undertakes the grueling search twice.

Despite this similar commuter and nontraditional student base, UMKC has not adopted JCCC’s reported free parking policies.

Some attribute this decision to Parking Operations’ lack of funding from the university.

“Parking Operations is an auxiliary service from UMKC,” junior and campus ambassador Dara Alvarado stated. “They are the ones that keep the lights on [in] the garages and the upkeep of the parking lots. The only funding they have available comes from parking passes and tickets.”

The UMKC Parking Operations’ frequently asked questions webpage confirmed this account.

Regardless of how students feel about the current parking situation, prices may continue to rise. Just this month, a faculty member discovered that she was charged a $25 late fee per month that her ticket went unpaid—a ticket she incurred simply for forgetting her parking pass. In an email to University News, the faculty member called this late fee “insanely punitive.”

In receipts obtained from Parking Operations, Oak Place Apartment parking permits rose by three dollars between the spring 2016 semester and fall 2016 semester.

Going forward, students envision many possibilities for campus parking. Senior Thea Voutiritsas desires a payment plan for students who cannot afford to pay for a whole pass at once.

“It’s hard to [pay] for some students, especially at the beginning of the semester, when we are also paying for books, tuition and supplies,” said Voutiritsas. “A lot of students live paycheck-to-paycheck, so it’s more feasible to spend $30 or $40 a month rather than $135 all at once.”

“It seems that there is an abundance of faculty spots, as if a Young Casey Kangaroo went to the faculty lot orchard and picked bushels and bushels of faculty spots to take home,” Garg observed. “The highly skewed ratio of faculty to student spots, [specifically] in Lot 35/A15, once fixed, would offer many more spots to students.”

Although both Voutiritsas and Garg have communicated their ideas to Parking Operations’ employees, their suggestions and many more have yet to be implemented. For now, communication between students and university parking officials may have hit a red light.

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