The good, the bad, and the ugly: UWT parking

The parking situation at UW Tacoma — an infamous problem that is a constant source of discussion among students and staff alike. Going to school in the middle of a downtown area is sure to be a challenge, but once the problem reaches a level where your education begins to be affected, change needs to take place. 

Popular problems I’ve seen caused by the congested or otherwise expensive parking options at UWT include being late to class due to the back and forth search along Pacific Avenue to locate a spot to park, and/or having to leave class and miss content that students are paying for to feed the parking meter. Due to avoid being ticketed, students skip class completely because they can’t afford to pay to park, or they have to add an excessive amount of added commute time to park away from campus and get there by long walks or public transportation. 

It’s upsetting from a financial perspective that the parking situation at UWT is so problematic for students. For a campus demographic that is predominantly composed of commuter students, the additional cost that students are facing to attend should be taken more heavily by administration. The school is a part of a coalition of urban-serving institutions, meaning it aims to support the area and provide better access to education for students that may face hurdles, such as financial ones. For this reason, the Financial Aid Office provides ample funding to students, and a lot of programs, like the short-term loan program and emergency aid, that are extremely helpful. So many people chose UWT because of the affordability option in the first place, and UWT does a great job of trying to help. Yet, students with low incomes are still disadvantaged by the burden of transportation to campus. 

Paying roughly $5 a day to park can quickly amount to astronomical highs for students when you factor in how often we must come to campus to attend classes. Add on potential parking tickets, and the cost of gas, it’s evident that UWT provides a unique extra bill that many other schools don’t. When it gets to the point where students are skipping whole classes altogether because they can’t afford to park their cars, this is a major problem. 

I will concede that there has been a genuine attempt made by UWT to mitigate the issue. There are numerous businesses in the area that have partnered with UWT to create spaces where students can purchase permits to park, such as the Tacoma Dome or the Washington State History Museum. Also, there are free parking zones nearby campus. Even though these are typically full, the option is there. We also have the option of public transportation that is subsidized through UWT with the UPASS. 

My problem with the permit options is that the convenient ones are extremely expensive. The most affordable option available is to park at the Tacoma Dome’s Lot A, which comes with another set of hurdles. The lot is often closed several days of every month because of events. It’s far away from campus, so students getting out of class later in the day or early evening do not feel safe traveling to that portion of town alone. Also, even more commute time must be budgeted for students to accommodate for the inconvenience, taking away valuable time from students who are already juggling multiple responsibilities. This is the same case with public transportation as well. 

I have a lot of questions — why didn’t UWT think of these problems when they decided to build a campus in the middle of downtown Tacoma? With their hope to increase enrollment numbers as well, the problem will only continue to worsen. Why wasn’t the infrastructure put in place before haphazardly building a university that is extremely cumbersome to get to?  Why couldn’t a UWT parking garage be built instead of a multi-million dollar YMCA facility that UWT is still struggling to afford? Why doesn’t UWT try to make things a little easier on students and work with the cell phone apps that allow you to manage parking from your phone that we already see all over downtown Tacoma? 

But most importantly, why are students being forced to overcome so many inconvenient obstacles when they are already making so many sacrifices to obtain their education, including paying thousands of dollars to UWT annually? 

Our university’s administration constantly discusses strategies to increase enrollment — which has been suffering in recent years — and prevent students from transferring out of the university. If they would focus on making our daily student life more bearable with better parking or better on-campus food options instead of attempting to publicly legitimize themselves with flashy, expensive facilities and whole new departments, I think they would see more positive results.

The envelope everyone dreads seeing on their car after class.