I’m sure most ANU students would be able to recount a horror story or two about parking on campus, or even recall an issue with the Parking Office itself. Time and time again, the Parking Office and its inspectors have been ruthless in their conduct. They will accept no excuse for parking in the wrong spot, or staying even a little over time. In one incident last year, I was actually fined while parking in a parking station after the Parking Office cancelled my permit by accident.
Parking at the ANU is something that, as a community, we need to talk about. It is becoming increasingly frustrating to both find and afford parking on campus. What we have seen in the last three years are huge increases in parking costs with no actions to address increasing demand. This year, for off-campus residents, an annual Student Surface Parking Permit is now at $411 whereas, in 2014, the same permit cost $336.60. While this is the cheapest permit available on campus you are not actually guaranteed a spot, and after 8.45am finding a park becomes a nightmare. This year, Daley Road residents will also face a $65 increase in the cost of parking permits at the Dickson Parking Station.
The ANU Administration, who set the fees through the Facilities and Services Division, have decided to raise the cost of 2017 Student Parking Station Permits to 75 percent of staff rates. This results in a $1,836.23 payment for a yearly permit at Baldessin or Kingsley Parking Stations – a $740 increase since 2014. The increase in parking permits prices with no explanation from the ANU Administration is concerning. It forces students to look for other alternatives to get to and from campus and may even restrict them from being active members of the ANU community. For some, there is the option to cycle or walk, while for others, these options are not realistic alternatives. Students who do not live in the Inner North have to rely on buses to get to and from university and the services are frequently unreliable and indirect – travelling times from outer Canberra and Regional NSW can be 40-80 minutes long.
So what are we meant to do? We are could use the ‘pay and display’ option but face paying up to $10 for four hours of parking, which would add up quickly. We could take a gamble on a parking permit and battle to find a spot each day. Or, we could refuse to do either and risk the infringement penalties of $79 to $200 per ticket.
ANUSA President James Connolly has had meetings with the ANU Executive about this issue. When contacted for comment about the increase in permit costs this year, Connolly said that it was a ‘particular concern because it was done so without explanation on the part of the University Executive, despite efforts … to seek explanation.’ The ANU Parking and Director of Facilities and Services have made it clear that it is the University Executive that dictate the price of parking on campus each year. Connolly made it clear that although he reached out to ANU Executive Director of Administration and Planning Chris Grange, he is still waiting for a response.
When I contacted the Director of Facilities and Services asking about the decision, they informed me that ‘parking fees pay for maintenance and upgrades of car parks, road line markings, signage and to monitor car parks.’ The Kingsley Parking Station, however, has had leaking pipes since I purchased my 90-day pass at the start of 2017. This is simply not good enough.
As it stands right now, the ANU has four multilevel parking stations, one of which is for the residents of Daley Road. The ANU could offer greater parking availability if more multilevel parking stations were built on top of the existing parking areas already available. We should be building upwards, instead of taking up more land by expanding outwards. To me it appears that the wealth of money being collected from parking fees and fines is not being reinvested into maintaining and creating parking facilities. Considering the lack of adequate services on offer, the parking costs incurred by students are unreasonable and have not been clearly justified by the University Executive. When many students already struggle to meet the day-to-day expenses that come from living independently, and often find it difficult to balance necessary part-time work with study, the added cost of over-priced parking adds unnecessary stress to student life.
This year the NUS ACT State Branch in conjunction with ANUSA will be running a petition lobbying the ACT Government and the ANU Administrations to address parking on campus to provide more spots. It also calls for a freeze to Student Parking Fees for the next two years and a formal explanation for the decision to raise Parking Station permits to 75% of Staff Rates.