As the new school year gets under way, some students, faculty and staff are finding that there have been changes made to the parking around UW Tacoma. Members of the UW Tacoma community have been voicing their concern and confusion over the changes of previously unregulated parking, as well as the pricing for permits.
The City of Tacoma has made two changes to parking around UWT. The first is that the parking times along Jefferson Street has been increased from 90 minute parking to two hour parking.
The other change from the city comes west of Market Street — along the University YMCA side and up the hill to Tacoma Ave. Before, that parking was unregulated, meaning anyone could park there for free for an unspecified amount of time. Now, a three hour maximum time limit for parking has been placed. This means that parking in that area is still free, but only for three hours. After that, the vehicle must be moved, or risk the possibility of being ticketed. These changes were made at the recommendation of Tacoma’s City Parking Technical Advisory Group.
James Sinding, Program Operations Manager for UWT’s Parking and Transportation unit and who provided insight and information to the Parking Technical Advisory Group, explained the reasoning behind the group’s recommendation.
“What they came up with was unpaid, three hour regulation,” Sinding said. “It’s enough time to attend a class. It opens up parking availability so people shouldn’t be driving around for X amount of hours [sic] or minutes to find a free place to park, and it incentivises turnover, so the next student can park and get to class.”
Another big change students, faculty and staff should be aware of is the increase in costs for parking permits. All permit parking authorized by UWT will see their rates climb over the next five years, with some of the cheaper lot permits seeing as much as an initial increase of $36. It has been ten years since the last time parking rates have been adjusted.
“We can’t afford to build parking because it is a self-sustaining program,” Sinding said. “No academic funds actually go into the transportation program, so how do we address the complaints students have? First, let’s right-size our parking rates so that we can afford to put a plan to add on to our parking supply. We reviewed those rates and looked at the surrounding city rates and did just that.”
Additionally, the rates for hourly parking have also increased in the Cragle and Pinkerton lots, moving to $1.50 an hour.
These changes are meant to help increase funding to ease the burden of costs for maintenance and repair of parking stalls and lots, expand future parking options and allow UWT to keep a lower UPASS fee for students, according to the UWT website.
Already there are plans to temporarily close a third of the Whitney lot to add 50 or so additional parking stalls to the lot by spring. Sinding has said that they have plans ready to ensure this temporary reduction will not hurt current permit users.
The UPASS has seen added emphasis over the past few months. Last spring, it was made a mandatory fee of $45 for almost all UWT students, and the UPASS fees collected from UWT students only go towards the UWT UPASS program. It also played a central role in UWT’s “Anything but Driving” campaign, which explored different options on how to get to campus and reduce the amount of single-driver vehicles. UWT is also mandated by Washington State to lower their drive-alone rate.
Despite these changes, parking remains a sore point for many students. Sinding stated that the number one response he gets back from UWT members is that there is not enough parking. Sophomore Aaliyah Graves shared their thoughts on the overall state of UWT parking.
“I go to school four days a week,” Graves said. “It’s like a 20 minute drive there [and] not guaranteed [if] I will get a spot or not. And although the prices seem fair to some, it builds up, especially when people have other bills and necessities to pay.”