According to the Daily Tar Heel, UNC is going to start charging for evening parking this fall. All students will shoulder this cost as an annual $10.40 charge to their student fees. Non-affliated visitors to UNC will pay $2/evening. Nighttime employees will pay an annual fee between $227 (for those with an income of less than $25K/year) to $390 (for those making over $100K/year), which is the same price as daytime permits.
In the article, UNC DPS spokesman Randy Young says:
“The folks who are only working at night, their shift is basically the same as people who work during the day, except that traditionally, they’ve been receiving free parking,” he said. “So they would pay for their parking at night, for their nighttime work, the same way employees during the day have to. In the past, daytime parking permits have essentially subsidized those who park at night.”
Understandably, UNC is trying to increase revenue due to the draconian budget cuts proposed by the General Assembly for next year. And while I generally consider parking fees as an appropriate way to raise funds, I take issue with DPS' rationale for employee parking fees, particularly for lower-income employees. My major concerns are:
Transit. UNC contributes a large amount to the Transit Fund as a way to promote an alternative to driving for employees and students, and many take advantage of this option. However, there are very limited evening and weekend transit options. Unless they live within walking or biking distance of UNC, parking for nighttime employees is far more of a necessity than it is for their daytime counterparts.
Cost. Given the limited transportation options for nighttime employees, is it fair to charge all employees the same parking fee? I don't think so. The lack of transit access, as well as off-peak usage of the parking lots, should have been kept in mind when developing the fees.
Safety. What will happen to employees who cannot afford the new parking fee? They may be able to find parking off-campus, by parking in adjacent neighborhoods or Town lots after hours. However, traveling alone late at night might make them a target for crime. And if enough employees park in residential neighborhoods, it may lead to conflict with homeowners in the area.
In addition to these issues, I would also like to note that, in general, UNC's employee parking fees are regressive. The richest employees' permits only cost about 80% more than the poorest employees, despite their making over 400% more income. It is a possibility that additional revenue could be generated by making the sliding scale more equitable.
In recent years, changes at the federal and state levels have increased financial pressure on poor and low-income workers. It is disappointing to also see this occurring at Chapel Hill's largest employer.