Parking on UNC’s campus has long been characterized by crowded lots, restricted spaces and high fares for premium spots. Now, a new layer of rules is in place guiding after-hours parking on campus.
UNC’s Weeknight Parking program began Aug. 15 — and while the changes for students and visitors are minimal, the plan’s announcement and implementation caused some confusion and frustration among students and Chapel Hill residents who worried that parking on campus would become even more difficult.
In previous years, parking was free for students and the general public in certain on-campus lots after 5 p.m. This year, there’s no longer free-to-the-public parking on campus during the week, and visitors are required to purchase a one-dollar one-night pass for some lots or park in a paid lot, according to the description of the plan on UNC Transportation and Parking’s website.
Students pay the smaller fee of six dollars annually, included in student fees, and must register their vehicles online before they can park on campus after 5 p.m. on weekdays.
First-years are not eligible to register their vehicle, and do not pay the $6 annual fee.
Transportation and Parking Director Cheryl Stout said the Weeknight Parking program emerged from the department’s search for alternative funding options that would keep prices of daytime permits from increasing.
Stout also said that UNC Transportation and Parking will be working to educate the campus community about the program and track its results during the first several months of implementation.
The department put thought into creating a program that minimized drastic changes to student and visitor parking habits, Stout said.
Other aspects of parking on campus remain unchanged. No permit will be required to park in on-campus lots over the weekend, from 5 p.m. on Friday to 7:30 a.m. on Monday. And the daytime parking system is the same as last year, with a lottery system used to award daytime student passes to graduate and undergraduate students.
According to UNC Transportation and Parking, students with weeknight passes will be able to park on most lots around campus.
Elizabeth Waugh-Duford, a social worker who grew up and now resides in Chapel Hill, said she’s concerned about the new restrictions having a broader impact on downtown.
“The UNC lots being open in the evenings has made it easier for folks to come (and) go out to eat, go to a bar, go to a museum, whatever they want to do,” she said. ”It's also made it a lot easier for folks when they're in town for football and basketball, to be out after the game."
Waugh-Duford said she thinks adding more restrictions to parking could be detrimental to the campus community.
“I don't really understand Carolina's perspective on this, because they do better in terms of support for the University when more people are able to come to campus and visit,” she said.
The weeknight parking program is a part of UNC Transportation and Parking’s five-year plan, which aims to generate the revenue necessary to cover expenses. The department is completely receipt-funded, meaning UNC receives no state funding for parking facilities.
Still, it can be difficult to communicate the plan without some amount of backlash.
"I think any time you have a change, that it's going to generate talk and concern,” Stout said. “... We've worked hard to socialize the message. But it's a change, and certainly people react to that change."
Waugh-Duford said that if she better understood the goals of the program and how it played into a larger plan, she might be less inclined to view the new parking guidelines as unnecessary.
“If people understood what the plan was, and why, I think it would be easier to not be as confused and grumpy,” she said.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.