OPINION: UCCS parking permits are a costly problem

Camille Liptak 

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     It is the Saturday night before the fall 2021 semester at UCCS begins, and I am nervous. My heart is beating fast. My palms are slightly sweaty, and my brain is on overdrive. The semester hasn’t even begun and I’m already freaking out. Why? Because of a parking permit.  

     I am one of many students at UCCS who must commute to campus, which also makes me one of the majority of students who are required to purchase a parking permit. Parking permits are but one of the many unnecessary extra charges UCCS tacks onto the cumulative price tag of every student.  

     However, unlike the pricey Athletics Fee or Recreation Center Bond Fee, the parking permit is a fee not billed as part of our tuition but is a fee all commuting students must pay if they attend classes on campus. 

     It is my unwavering opinion that UCCS students should not be charged to park their vehicle on campus. However, after researching the parking permit practices at UCCS, I recognize that this opinion is about as unrealistic as Clyde the Mountain Lion asking for my hand in marriage.  

     Parking and Transportation relies on funding from parking permits and parking citations to fund operations and transportation services. 

     Thus, I will begrudgingly concede and acknowledge the alleged “necessity” for paid parking permits at UCCS. (After all, I did shell out $148 so that I could attend my three in-person courses this fall, out of fear of ticket or towing.) 

     But why do the UCCS parking permits have to be so expensive? 

     As a new semester begins, UCCS students often scramble to cover the high costs of college living. From tuition, books, tech equipment (laptops, tablets, etc.), rent and groceries, the dollar amounts quickly rack up. Parking should not be an additional financial burden on UCCS students. 

     According to the UCCS Parking & Transportation website, the goal of the department is to “help to provide and maintain a safe and secure environment where academic pursuits may flourish… This goal is accomplished by providing parking to the community through the management and maintenance of parking facilities.”  

     What is withheld from this well-worded declaration is the high cost of these parking facilities, and how commuter students are the ones required to pay them.  

     Like a bougie restaurant with its lavish menu of food options, UCCS offers several types of parking permits, all of which have sleek acronym nicknames.  

     There’s the SEM pass, which is required if you attend UCCS Monday through Friday, and which gives you an all-access pass to the Orange, Yellow and Purple lots, as well as the Alpine Garage. This costs a mere $233. 

     Then there’s the MWF and TRF passes, which get you exclusive access to the same multi-colored lots and the Alpine Garage, but only for three days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday; or Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, respectively.) This pass only gouges you a measly $148.  

     There are other options, of course. If you have evening classes, you can purchase the EVES permit for $90, or the ALPS EVE or B EVE passes for $56. There are also parking permits for motorcycles! How thoughtful and considerate. (I’m being sarcastic.) 

     And let’s say you only have class on Friday. Well, that pass (FRI) costs $29. That’s not so bad, right? In fact, even paying $29 per day seems reasonable in comparison to the other permit prices. But there seems to be mathematical discrepancies in the cost of UCCS parking permits.  

     If a one-day parking permit costs $29, then a three-day parking permit should be about $87 and a five-day parking permit should be $145. Hm. Then why does the UCCS Parking & Transportation Services charge nearly double and triple those amounts? 

     Of course, there are the Free permits for the Purple 500 Lots, the only free parking lots on campus. These would be a great option, except these lots are 10-15 minutes from the main campus, located as far as the Ent Center, and fill up fast.  

     Border Lots (Orange Lots) are essentially the same as the 500 Lots in that they are miles away from hotspot campus halls and small in number. The proportion of Border Lots and Yellow Lots is 6 to 20. That means the lots that require a higher-cost parking permit outnumber those lots that cost less to park in. This suggests that more affordable parking areas are purposefully out of range of the campus. 

     Sure, there’s a shuttle bus that can cart you from these far away free parking lots to the main campus, but the reliability of the shuttle bus is questionable. And riding the shuttle also puts you at the mercy of the shuttle’s schedule, and there is no guarantee that that schedule is reliably consistent with your course schedule. 

     Besides, if you are a commuter student with a motor vehicle, why would you drive to UCCS to take a shuttle bus? 

     If it is so crucial that UCCS charges students for parking, then why can’t a flat-rate parking charge be added to the other numerous additional tuition costs? 

     Pikes Peak Community College does not charge for parking whatsoever. And Colorado College (CC) charges a flat rate for lots and parking garages. For undergraduate students at CC, it is a flat rate of $100 per semester. That means, whether you are on campus five days a week or one day a week, or whether you park in a lot or a garage, you pay the same rate. CC also works with students who may not be able to afford parking permits, offering flexible payment plans. 

     While this system is not entirely fair (particularly for students who only use the lots/garages once a week), it’s a lot more reasonable than the current parking permit system at UCCS. 

     But here’s the real kicker. 

     Purchasing a costly UCCS parking permit does not guarantee you a parking space in any of the more sought-after lots. The Parking & Transportation Services website states, “Parking is on a first-come, first-served basis. Purchasing a permit entitles you to park in certain parking lots on campus. YOU ARE NOT PURCHASING A RESERVED PARKING SPACE.”  

     Unlike tickets for concerts or sporting events, which secure a spot for a specific seat in a specific row in a specific section, my expensive TRF UCCS parking permit guarantees me nothing. Even with the high price, it’s still a first-come, first-served basis. Just because I need to park in the costly lot next to Columbine Hall, doesn’t mean I will be able to. In fact, there’s a higher likelihood that I will end up having to park in one of the free lots — which means I am essentially wasting $148.  

     Another thing UCCS can’t guarantee is that your vehicle will be safe.  

     Even with the high cost of parking permits, UCCS also relieves themselves of any potential harm that your vehicle may incur while parked in the lots. According to the Parking & Transportation webpage, “UCCS is not responsible for loss or damage to any vehicle or its contents while parked or operated on any university property.”  

     UCCS charges students and employees, yet they have no accountability whatsoever. 

     So, I am literally paying the school daily rent costs to allow for my vehicle to occupy space in one of their precious lots, but I am guaranteed absolutely no protection of said vehicle. That’s reassuring. 

     Parking Passes are an added financial stressor for students getting access to a college education. UCCS should revise the system for parking passes or implement a flat rate into tuition fees like other schools in Colorado Springs.

Photo courtesy of The Scribe archives.