Parking at the University of Saskatchewan is more of a hassle for students than it should be. To fix this, the U of S needs a student parking program that is better managed and more accessible.
I transferred here from the University of British Columbia this year and parking was one of the first student issues I became aware of. I was surprised by the amount of frustration parking inspired, having come from a place where parking passes were rare. Soon however, I came to understand this city has a different car culture than Vancouver — something to do with those -40 C days and the fact that buses here seem to run whenever they feel like it rather than on a reliable schedule.
After having done a little research, I’m convinced there’s room for improvement. Should parking be free for students on campus? No, that is not a feasible option. Is there a way for student parking to be better managed? I believe yes.
The current system at the U of S involves submitting an online application during the months of July and August, which is followed by a lottery. Students pay a nonrefundable $20 application fee and are asked to list the lot allocations they would be prepared to accept in order of preference.
Costs per lot range from $280.95 to $441.90 for the eight-month school year period, with the centrally located Stadium Parkade being the most expensive. The automated ballot system randomly assigns lots to all applicants and the result is posted to their PAWS accounts at the end of August. According to the official website, there are approximately 1,200 parking spaces available in this draw, which inevitably leaves hundreds of applicants out in the cold — literally.
These students may use other spaces such as Lot 1 next to St. Thomas More College. These lots are open to anyone, but priced exorbitantly during daytime hours. Despite this, they are frequently full, which used to shock me before I experienced my first heavy snowfall and deep freeze.
I find the current system disappointing and lacking. The lottery system appears to be fair, but ends up leaving some students highly privileged with parking per day working out to less than two dollars for whichever lot they end up in. Meanwhile, some students are stuck with nothing.
I took a look back at UBC for comparison.
As a large city, Vancouver has a much more extensive and reliable transit system than Saskatoon and very different weather. Still I find their parking scheme more fair to students who drive to campus. UBC offers a Flex Pass, which for varying prices can be used at select parkades. Students can choose between one, two or five parkades for one month or for one to two terms. They can even purchase 10- or 20-day packages. After that, it is a first come, first serve situation at those lots. Any student who has a pass for a given lot may park there, if space is available.
This seems a better system to me. Although at UBC, an eight month one-lot pass will cost a student $624, roughly 41 per cent more than the most expensive U of S rate and this makes sense in a city with effective and accessible transit.
The U of S could impliment a similar system, with lower rates to reflect our student body’s more pressing need for parking. From there, it’s up to students to plan their morning schedule accordingly in order to get a space when they need it or choose to buy two or more lot options to increase their flexibility. The U of S would lose out on the $20 application fee, but their website states the only reason for the fee is to ensure they only attract applicants who need a spot.
We’d all love parking to be free, but schools need revenue to improve teaching standards and facilities — which we all love too. UBC is a much larger school so this isn’t a perfect comparison, but their system gives more students potential access to parking they can afford.
The U of S needs something new however, because winter transportation is difficult enough and student parking should only serve to make things easier.