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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Parking Fee Debate Rages On

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Students may soon have to pony-up more dough at the parking gate.

By now, most UMass Boston students are aware that the school wants to raise parking fees. They’re aware that the increase has something to do with construction, and they know that there’s a large coalition of students and staff against it. What they don’t know is why the school would want more money for parking, or where that money is supposed to go.

The University Parking and Transportation Office, headed by UMass alum Steve Martinson, is self-supporting. They must pay all their own expenses with the revenue they bring in, and according to Martinson, “our only revenue source is that parking fee.” They’re also responsible for the shuttle that brings UMass students between the JFK/UMass train station and the university. The shuttles are free to students who ride them, but they cost Parking and Transportation more money than everything else combined–Martinson says that “almost 60% of the revenues pay for the shuttle bus.”

The 25-Year Plan requires that some lots be temporarily closed in order that new academic and research buildings can be constructed. Shutting down lots would normally result in disaster, but the University has recently acquired land at the Bayside Exposition Center a half mile from campus. The lot there can accommodate about 1300 cars.

Right now, the Bayside Lot gets used by a couple dozen students about twice a week. During construction, that number will most likely go up to hundreds every day. This means that more shuttle buses would be needed to help students get between Bayside and the school, and as Martinson points out,”It’s not cheap to run those buses.” It costs $1,000 dollars to run a bus for a 4 hour period. The fee increase has been proposed as a way of paying for extra buses during construction.

Those opposed to the fee increase include every single staff and faculty union, who are currently negotiating the fee increase with the university, as well as the Undergraduate Student Government. Patrick O’Brien, the Undergraduate Student Government’s Presidential Liaison for Parking and Transportation, writes that “the official position of the USG is that there should be NO increase in parking fees on campus.” O’Brien has met with Martinson, and Vice President Kayla Worthy has been assigned the task of proposing alternatives which can be presented during arbitration.

Each possible solution has its pros and cons. It seems fair to make the students who take the MBTA cover the cost of the shuttles and drastically lower the parking fee. However, Martinson doesn’t want a drastically-lowered parking fee. “Part of the Master Plan is to try and reduce the amount of cars on campus to make it a greener place.” Making parking cheaper isn’t going to discourage people from driving in. Making public transportation more expensive isn’t going to encourage people to take the MBTA.

Other methods look more promising. UMass Boston could, like UMass Amherst, charge everybody who works for them according to income level. The university could also charge more or less depending on how close a person parks, with the Campus Center costing eight dollars or even ten, while Bayside would cost six. Martinson believes that many students, staff,and faculty would be willing to pay the extra money to be closer to the school.

O’Brien writes “As to solutions to the problem…there is no easy one.” Martinson says he feels “torn.” He sympathizes with students who are worried they can’t afford the new fees. He does what he can to let everybody know that there are monthly and combination passes available. “I drive,” he says. “This is what I pay.” He writes a number down on a piece of paper, and that number is the same as if he were a student, no more but also no less.