Parking fees higher than Va. peer average

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September 17, 2010

12:22 AM

Reviews of parking regulations at various Virginia universities suggest that students at the College of William and Mary pay some of the steeper parking fees in the state.

The $321 fee for resident parking on campus at the College is significantly above the average price for permits at other Virginia universities, which is approximately $260. Additionally, most Virginia universities sell permits at varying prices, with the more expensive permits allowing students to park in more convenient locations. At George Mason University permits cost from $90 to $500, while at James Madison University a decal costs $212 and at the University of Virginia they fall between $192 and $444.

While parking prices at U.Va. can exceed the College’s, U.Va. Associate Director of Parking and Transportation Andy Mansfield said that most students at the University do not bring their cars with them to campus because the school has a bus system that runs consistently.

“Fewer U.Va. students brought their cars this year because they prefer to simply use the bus system on campus, which can also take them anywhere in the Charlottesville area,” Mansfield said.

Many students at the College said they are dissatisfied with the shortage of convenient parking spaces.

“I park on campus, and it is quite the battle,” Jeff DePaso ’12 said. “There’s a lot of subtlety to keeping your spot.”

Other College students said they decided not to bring their cars to school because they considered the price of a decal to be too expensive. Others park their cars off campus.

Katie Simpson ’11 lives on campus, but said she considers the $321 fee for a decal to be too expensive, especially when students can find places in the City of Williamsburg where they can park for free, even if they are far from campus.

“Initially, I chose to park in Williamsburg because it was easier to walk to than the hospital lot, where most sophomores had to park, and I saw no reason to change this year,” Simpson said.

Most of the cost of a resident parking decal goes toward paying off the construction debt of the parking garage on Ukrop Way, Manager of Parking and Transportation Services Bill Horacio said.

“Before the construction of the parking garage, parking decals only cost about $80,” Horacio said.

Construction of the garage in 2006 cost $13.5 million, and the College must pay its debt off by 2026. While the College pays about $1.2 million toward the debt annually, these debt payments have raised the price of a resident decal by more than $200.

According to Horacio, the price of a decal also covers preventative measures — including the cost of equipment such as traffic signs — and the maintenance of parking lots. The cost of clearing the snow out of College parking lots was approximately $11,000.

In addition to the costs of decals, students often complain about the shortage of convenient parking spaces on campus. However, there are currently more parking spots reserved for residential students than there are residential drivers. There are approximately 4,400 available spaces on campus. According to Horacio, there are more parking spaces assigned to campus residents than the number of decals sold each academic year.

“We’ve never had to stop selling parking decals because we didn’t have enough spaces,” he said.

Horacio’s suggestion for students struggling to find good parking spaces on campus is to plan their journeys effectively.

“Learning the best strategies to park on campus takes about two to three weeks, because you have to learn how and what to plan ahead,” he said. “Leaving enough time to find a space and knowing which parts of campus are the most congested at which times of the day are crucial.”

Despite complaints from students, Horacio said that cars are not necessary for convenient transportation in the city due to the presence of the Williamsburg Area Transit Green Line, which services the College.

“You don’t really need a car in Williamsburg,” Horacio said.

However, some students said they find WAT’s schedule and stop location to be inconvenient. Horacio said that, while students utilize the buses, WAT currently caters to the city as a whole, not to the College specifically.

“Until more students use the Williamsburg Area Transit, we can’t really justify improving the system especially for them,” he said.

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