Parking on CSU’s campus: Impacts beyond the permit price

Cars+fill+a+parking+lot+on+a+sunny+day

Collegian | Serena Bettis

Cars fill the parking lot next to the Morgan Library on Colorado State University’s campus Feb. 14. The Morgan Library lot has multiple rows of pay-to-park spaces and A permit spaces, which are all enforced from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

CTV News: JJ McKinney and Natalie Devereaux

Eliana Pritchett, Guest Author

According to Colorado State University’s Parking & Transportation Services, 32% of students and 68% of faculty drive to campus and must find parking each day.

Students at CSU have not been hesitant to express their grievances. If Rams support Rams, then something needs to change, said Aly Pillard, a third-year biology major.

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“I don’t think it’s fair that students working minimum wage and paying off loans have to pay $500 for a parking pass that doesn’t even guarantee them a spot,” Pillard said.

Pillard didn’t buy a parking pass this year. Rather, she and her partner rented an apartment that’s only a 15-minute walk from campus. Pillard said she can afford rent this close to campus because her apartment is right next to the train tracks, making it a less desirable rental. 

Pillard is frustrated with the economic situation most students face. After working in the service industry for years, she got a job at a museum, but she only makes $12 an hour. 

“Making poor students pay extra fees makes it that much harder to get an education, creating even more of a class division.” –Sophie Roseman, political science major

Considering the cost of rent and groceries, Pillard said an expensive parking pass isn’t a priority. She said parking costs — on top of rising tuition — make her “disappointed in the University.” 

Sophie Roseman, a political science major in her last semester at CSU, commutes from Loveland, Colorado, every day and opted to buy a parking pass because it was cheaper than the hourly rates. She said taking the bus would turn her 35-minute commute into an hour-and-a-half ordeal.

The South College Garage sits between West Lake Street and West Pitkin Street on the Colorado State University campus Feb. 14. The parking garage, which opened in 2016, has 650 spaces, including pay-to-park spaces and spaces for A and Z permit holders. (Collegian | Serena Bettis)

“I understand why a school would charge for parking right after they build a parking lot (or) parking garage in order to pay off the expenses; however, we are well past that,” Roseman said, referencing an article from The Collegian that explained parking prices were influenced by the expenses involved in creating and maintaining parking.

Like many of her peers, Roseman doesn’t have a lot of extra cash. She had to ask her dad to buy her a parking pass because she couldn’t afford it. As a restaurant worker, Roseman relies on scholarships and loans to pay her tuition, but these don’t cover extra expenses like parking. 

“Making poor students pay extra fees makes it that much harder to get an education, creating even more of a class division,” Roseman said. 

She said these types of hidden costs discourage low-income students from pursuing education, particularly because average incomes haven’t grown to match rising tuition costs. 

“Parking is a small example, but it perpetuates the same system,” Roseman said. 

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Devan Durand, the associate director of Parking & Transportation Services, acknowledged that some students are unhappy with parking prices but said parking services is limited because the program is completely self-funded. 

“No tax revenue, general funds, student fees or tuition money is received or used to support Parking & Transportation Services operation,” Durand said. “We are not a profit-generating business; our goal is to collect revenue to cover all parking maintenance and general operational expenses.”

“CSU is very committed to sustainability, and providing options for people other than driving alone … helps us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.” –Erika Benti, Parking & Transportation Services’ alternative transportation team staff member

Associate Director of Finance for parking services Brian Grube said this structure was mandated by the Colorado Constitution beginning in the 1950s.

The funds support other transportation services like bus routes, bike paths and signage, according to Parking & Transportation Services.

The department is conscious of issues with cost. Grube said they base permit costs on a 30-year estimate of maintenance needs, aiming to break even. 

Cars fill the parking lot next to the Morgan Library on Colorado State University’s campus, which has multiple rows of pay-to-park spaces and A permit spaces Feb. 14. It costs $2 per hour to park in the pay-to-park spaces, while A permits are for faculty and staff and cost $618 annually. (Collegian | Serena Bettis)

Durand noted that in the past three years, they haven’t raised permit costs. They offer several different levels of parking passes — students can save money by picking specific days of the week to park or by parking in more remote lots. 

Citations and tickets are not used to make money. Durand said citations only represent around 11% of parking services’ revenue. The goal of parking enforcement is to keep permit holders from being displaced. 

“We issue around 50,000 citations during a normal academic year, but 50-60% are warnings to assist with education,” Durand said. 

Another issue students cited is the number of parking spots available, as Grube said Parking & Transportation Services isn’t able to build more parking, which is an expensive undertaking.  

Grube said regular lots cost around $6,000 per parking space, while garages can cost $30,000-40,000 per space. CSU exists in the middle of a developed city, meaning there is not much room to expand outward. Ongoing construction can also interfere with current parking availability. 

“The reason parking is going away at a lot of universities and why it has shrunk here is because buildings get constructed on parking lots,” Durand said.  

Grube said the limited real estate puts additional burdens on parking development, not only in terms of expense but also safety. Fort Collins exists on a floodplain, so parking can’t be built below ground without the addition of expensive safety equipment. 

Around 25% of students and 50% of employees have parking passes. The rest use alternative forms of transportation, said Erika Benti, a staff member on the Parking & Transportation Services’ alternative transportation team. 

“CSU is very committed to sustainability, and providing options for people other than driving alone … helps us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” Benti said. 

Benti also noted that alternative transportation can be used by those with limited mobility and individuals who can’t afford a personal vehicle. RamCard access to Transfort transportation services ensures students and staff have access to affordable transportation. 

For those who do bring a car, Durand said the parking services faculty makes an effort to work with students, and she said she wants students to know they are here to help. 

Reach Eliana Pritchett at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.