Student Drivers Forced to Walk
BY STEPHANIE BREIJO
The last University of Mary Washington student options for parking anywhere besides the edges of campus are gone.
Students may find parking to be more difficult than ever, with most faculty/staff spaces changed to 24-hour parking allocations. These faculty/staff lots, previously open to residents, commuters and visitors on weekends, are now banned entirely from student/visitor parking.
Regardless of an absence of cars in faculty/staff lots late at night and on weekends, officials say that the new parking allocations and 24/7 lots were necessary to accommodate the university’s busy events schedule.
“We frequently have events in the evenings and on weekends,” said university Chief of Police James Snipes. “It seemed that previously, just about every weekend, we’d have to call students about their cars. We were incurring well over two or three thousand dollars a year between events and towing expenses.”
The new 2007-2008 parking allocations require students and visitors to find parking elsewhere, be it along Sunken Road, William and Hanover streets or the University’s new parking deck – all along the edges of UMW’s main campus.
Faculty and staff members currently have 16 lots open to them on or along the Mary Washington campus, 10 of which are open “24/7.” Residential students now only have nine lots, sharing them with construction zones as well as faculty, staff and visitors.
Commuter students may only park in five.
“It would be more convenient to park on campus like last year because of all our classes we have to get to,” said commuter student Faith Calleson. “It’s easier now just to walk if you live off campus, but it’d be nice to not have to walk through the dark neighborhoods.”
According to Snipes, the university offset parking losses by opening up College Avenue and the outer spaces in the William Street lot for commuter students. Two levels of the new parking deck are now open to residential students and one is open to visitors.
Both residential and commuter students may only park on the campus in a combined total of 1,005 spaces – a startling figure, as the university has over 4,000 undergraduate students.
At present, nearly 2,000 student parking passes have been sold.
The cost of parking decals has gradually increased to an all-time high from the free-of-charge parking the school allowed only five years ago to the current $200 annual fee.
Students have been paying off the $6 million parking structure debt with all revenue from parking permits.
According to officials, the University sold tax-exemptive bonds to private investors for the parking deck’s construction. The last bond, paid by student parking pass revenue, will be paid off in 2025.
As of now, the University still owes its private investors over $5.6 million.
While the University is relying entirely on private investors and its annual parking fees for the new deck, student parking tickets pay off a more accessible vehicular asset, usable by virtually everyone.
“Tickets go into a parking fund that goes to paving the parking lots and roads,” said Vice President of Business and Finance Richard Pearce. “The state government doesn’t give us any funding for that at all, so we have to rely on our own sources.”
According to the Office of Business and Finance, annual ticket income within the last 20 years ranges anywhere from $50,000 to $70,000, always contributing to the upkeep of the University’s roads.
While students at the University of Mary Washington are dealing with elaborate parking changes, they are not the only ones.
The College of William & Mary, who recently opened a new parking deck to offset the loss of parking spaces in the recently-closed Old Glory Court, charges $275 for annual parking passes.
Students at the not-too-distant Longwood University annually pay $250 for parking. The University is currently undergoing parking stress due to the city of Farmville’s reacquisition of Griffin Boulevard, previously reserved for commuter student parking.
UMW’s Pearce said there are no plans to raise the costs of University of Mary Washington parking permits in the near future.
“If the parking rates went up, it would be because of something unexpected,” said Pearce. “But there really isn’t any current discussion of a pay increase for students and we really don’t anticipate one.”