U-Pass and parking, unlikely yet friendly bedfellows

By Katie Hobday

Parking on campus and the U-Pass are the yin and yang of commuting to school: Two seemingly opposite concepts that somehow work well together.

The demand for parking on campus was dramatically decreased by the implementation of the U-Pass.

"In terms of the availability of parking, it’s been very positive," said University of Calgary Director of Ancillary Services Peter Fraser. "Prior to its implementation, we were bursting at the seams. We were filling space 260 days a year, five days a week in the Fall and Winter semesters."

According to Calgary Transit representative David MacDonald, Calgary Transit has seen a 30 per cent increase in transit users since the U-Pass was implemented at the U of C to give students a semester worth of transit access for roughly the price of month. The U-Pass has proven itself successful enough to expand, and research is underway to see if it is possible to add Spring and Summer sessions.

MacDonald insists students are receiving all of the benefits of the U-Pass.

"It is revenue neutral," he said. "It’s not a cash cow at all, it is just a redistribution. The bottom line is the same for us."

The U-Pass is not only worthwhile for students who use transit. Drivers feel some relief at increased availability of parking spaces. Students consistently waited in long lineups at popular lots just to get a spot, explains Fraser. "[Now] some days you wait, but not often."

Students parking on campus can also expect to see more price stability in terms of parking rates.

"Until three years ago, parking only increased two or three times in eight years," says Fraser.

Three years ago, Student’s Union and Graduate Students’ Association representatives made a presentation to the Board of Governors encouraging revenue generation through charging market rates for services such as parking. Fraser admits the cost of parking increased dramatically, but he is quick to point out that all revenue from parking stays at the university.

With prices increasing from 33 to 50 per cent in pay lots in the past three years, rates at the U of C are now on par with SAIT, U of A, and Foothills Hospital.

"We have reached some sense of stability on campus" says Fraser of parking rates.

Not only does parking revenue get returned to the university, but Parking Services also employs a large number of students. Is free parking a job perk?

"No," laughs Fraser. "Even the President [Harvey Weingarten] pays for parking."

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