UWT Student Investigators; Is parking on UWT’s campus failing to meet the needs of students and faculty?

By Mia Beltran

Where are you most likely to be ticketed in the city of Tacoma? Public records point to streets around the University of Washington. Four of the five most ticketed locations in the entire city are at UW Tacoma.

In 2018 alone, more than 4,300 tickets were issued to cars parked along Jefferson and Pacific avenues on the edge of the UWT campus, according to municipal court records obtained through a public disclosure request. Two blocks of Pacific Avenue that border UWT’s campus generated 2,783 tickets. Just west, Jefferson Avenue accumulated 1,518 tickets.

It is an open secret that parking woes cause UWT students and faculty to arrive late to classes, meetings and seminars. With more and more students enrolling each quarter, and fewer paid and free parking spaces to go around, the situation becomes more and more chaotic.

UW Tacoma’s Transportation Services department is responding by encouraging students to find alternatives to driving. Recently, the department moved to make the UPASS ¸— a $45 per quarter public transit pass that works across six Puget Sound transit agencies — a mandatory program that students are required to pay for starting in spring quarter 2019.

The “Universal UPASS” came about as a way to avoid a doubling of the cost of the optional pass, which received pushback from students who identified as low-income.

Fifty percent of the student population lives only seven to 10 miles away from campus, according to statistics provided by Transportation Manager James Sinding. If students living within that range used public transit, it would free up spaces for those that live farther than 30 minutes away from campus.

As much as Sinding said he would like to include a parking structure in UWT’s plans for the upcoming years, he added it was impossible — at least for now. Transportation Services lost $173,193 in fiscal year 2018. The university is looking for revenue generated by the mandatory Universal UPASS — which just went into effect — to help fund future renovation and construction projects to expand parking.

UWT conducted a parking survey in January 2017 that recorded permit and unrestricted parking stalls and information based on observations that told how full all the lots are at certain times of the day. Since then, this information has changed quite a bit.

For example, much of the parking below the Court 17 apartments was once open to all. Now 90 percent of those spots are designated permit only, with only one row of stalls accessible for residents and commuting students.

Alex Dogbe, a resident of Court 17, ran into trouble with the garage’s new rules. In the middle of the quarter, Alex bought a car but had trouble finding it a spot on campus because the garage permits were sold out for the quarter. She usually parked behind the University Y Student Center before receiving the permit. Then she received a ticket.

“You have to move your car every seven days even though there’s no parking [infraction] rules that say so,” Dogbe said.