UNC to Start (Inequitably) Charging for Evening Parking

Erin Crouse's picture
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.

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7 Comments

James Barrett's picture

Impact on downtown?

Not clear in a quick read here -- does this include Rosemary St lots where I park to eat at Med Deli, go to DSI, etc?  I understand UNC feeling budget pressure from NCGA, but these lots are owned by all of us and when not fully needed for UNC business, should be freely available.  I appreciate Carrboro (and the county's new deck in H'boro) get it -- free parking is just more welcoming to visitors.

Erin Crouse's picture

Not sure

James, the article didn't make that clear, but I assume so if they didn't differentiate. I think if they are going to charge for evening parking in all lots, there should be an option for non-UNC people to purchase a permit, instead of having to pay by visit. Duke has an evening permit available to the public for $22/year. I have one, and would pay a similar price to have access to UNC lots during the year, instead of having to do it by visit.I worry more about the employees, though, because the permit cost is very high for someone with limited means.

James Barrett's picture

alternatives

Interesting to consider how trying to avoid on-campus fees will actually also be determental to the town.  Employees parking in free on-street spots (Franklin, Cameron, neighborhoods).

Ed Harrison's picture

UNC lots on Rosemary

Like James, I'm also interested in the status of the Rosemary Street lots. If I recall correctly, their availability for free evening parking was worked out by the Downtown Partnership, of which UNC is a formal member and financial contributor. They're well-located for easy access  to two of the West End's best deals, the Med Deli and DSI as mentioned by James.  Ed Harrison

Ed Harrison's picture

Based on content in "2014-15

Based on content in "2014-15 Night Parking" (UNC DPS webpage) the effective date appears to be August 15. The lots on Rosemary (along with hundreds of acres of other lots) would be gated 5 PM onward, Monday through Thursday evenings.  Ed Harrison