Parking and transportation costs affecting the University are set to rise by $6.1 million by the 2015-16 fiscal year.
And to account for that increase the University is looking to its students and employees, regardless of whether they own a vehicle.
The proposal, set for review by the Board of Trustees in March, would bring average annual transportation fee increases of $14 for students beginning in the 2011-12 academic year for the next five years. Employees would also see a fee increase.
“We have tried very hard looking at what needs to be done, what we’re facing and distributing costs among all of our users,” said Cheryl Stout, assistant director for parking services.
Over the next five years, the transportation fee will increase from $73.50 to $142, an increase of 93 percent.
Meanwhile, parking permit costs will rise 2 percent annually, with an average increase of between $5.78 and $7.60 for students.
Stout said spreading the costs among transit users will ensure that daytime users aren’t bearing more than their share of the costs.
The UNC Department of Public Safety does not currently charge bus fares or for parking in the University’s park-and-ride lots. In order to come up with the $6.1 million while maintaining services, it needs to make changes to generate revenue in other ways, she said.
Dakota Williams, student body treasurer, said he understands the fee but is worried that it might be excessive.
“I’m concerned,” Williams said. “I think people know that parking is a tough issue, but we’re looking at a $77 increase in the next five years.”
The most significant of the proposed changes will go into effect beginning in 2013, when permits for the once-free park-and-ride lots will cost $250.
“The biggest concern now for graduate students is the park-and-ride pass,” said Laura Blue, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation.
“It seems like students already pay the transit fee and now they have to pay the park-and-ride lot in addition, where other users will just have to pay the lot fee.”
Williams and Blue added that they are concerned about a new night-parking program, which will cost students $9 annually beginning in 2014. Those fees will be charged to all students in order to cover part of the expected $6.1 million increase.
“I think graduate students are upset, and students without cars are upset,” Williams said. “I don’t want to pay if I don’t have a car.”
Blue said graduate students are concerned with the availability of nighttime parking but understand the financial pressures brought on by the anticipated shortfall.
“Something has to occur to pay for what we all want,” she said.
Blue said she fears that graduate students will not be given an equal voice in discussions about the parking proposals.
Williams and other students said they aren’t opposed to all increases in transportation costs because they understand why the price of transportation is rising.
“So gas costs have gone up; therefore transportation costs have gone up,” he said. “I’m OK paying that as long as we are sure we are not paying more than we absolutely must.”
At the January meeting of the Employee Forum, DPS Chief Jeff McCracken said the increases would be gradual to lessen the blow to students and employees. After an employee suggested charging a bus fare, McCracken said he doubted the system would return to a fare model after years of being free.
“Chapel Hill Transit is a partnership system designed to be fair and free,” he said. “Is it perfect? No. But we’re constantly trying to improve.”
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