Could it just be free?
Many students have expressed frustration with rising parking prices, along with rising tuition fees and a higher cost of living. Last week, a nursing student explained his reasons for skipping a parking permit and parking his car off campus.
Since 2017, the average cost of parking on campus has increased about 19 per cent. During the same time, Parking Services has turned a profit ranging from about $92,000 to $319,000 per year. An obvious exception is the 2021-2022 school year, when COVID-19 hit. In that year, Parking Services lost nearly a million dollars. I spoke with Manager of Parking & Transportation Services at the University of Regina, Gwen Evans. I wanted to better understand the reason for these price increases, and how Parking Services operates.
In what ways and how much did COVID-19 affect Parking Services’ revenues?
In a way, it was good, because we were able to get some of our capital projects done without displacing a lot of people. For example, we did work on the Kinesiology parkade ramp and the Riddell parkade ramp. So, it was fortunate because we had to close the ramp for six weeks.
Fewer people parking on campus meant that Parking Services’ revenues decreased. In the U of R’s comprehensive budget for 2021-2022, revenues were about $1.96 million, and expenditures were about $2.94 million. In what ways did Parking Services attempt to recoup these losses after students began to return to campus?
We can’t really recoup the losses. The rates for parking prices were already set in a three-year cycle. We weren’t the only area that lost money, and you can’t recoup that. Now our sales are back to pre-COVID times. But what is good is that we are not sold out of parking spaces again. It could be due to hybrid classes or different class scheduling, but it’s good in some ways.
Could you please describe what the price of parking reflects?
Our M permits, based on a 20-day work month, works out to $2.87 a day. It’s less for the Green permit, which is about $2.60 a day. That $2.87 price includes snow removal, grating, all maintenance items, light replacements, and curb replacements.
Since 2017, the average prices of parking have increased by 19%. That’s an increase of nearly one-fifth in four years. In what ways is the price increase justified?
Per year it’s usually a 3 per cent increase, and for the students with M permits, we have always tried to keep at the lowest price increase, […] we charge based on the type of parking. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re a student or an employee, the price of the permit is the same. This is different from most universities. The justification is the cost of maintaining everything. With fuel increases, labour increases, and the costs of materials, all those costs. […] But since we are averaging increases over a large number of things, public parking actually pays for a lot of repairs and things like that. I would say it’s the cost of materials and labour.
What message would you like to send to students frustrated with the prices of parking?
Even though it seems like a semester permit costs a lot, […] understand that, when you break it down, it costs $2.87 a day. People don’t often look at it that way. They just see that price tag. I don’t know where else you can park where it’s $2.87 a day. There’s some confusion about people thinking tuition goes toward Parking Services also, but [Parking Services] operates on a totally different budget. The main message is break down what [parking costs] are per day that you’re paying, and understand that we’re trying our best.
At this point, my parking was about to expire. It cost me about $2.17 to park in front of Riddell for one hour, by the way. The $2.87 per day figure certainly puts things into perspective. However, remember that Parking Services is still a reliable money-maker for the university’s ancillary budget. At the very least, students and commuters can be assured that the university’s parking lots are in relatively good condition, and $2.87 per day is a bargain compared to most other prices.