As political satirist Jon Stewart once said, “Get there early because hope does not park your mother-fucking car.” This rings very true for the students of ANU, who are constantly realising that it is near impossible to find a parking spot on campus if you arrive any time after 8:45am; And none of us are happy about it.
During a discussion with ANU Transport Services, the staff members of the parking division (although very friendly and understanding), were unable to give me an exact figure of the number of permits issued each year. I was informed that there is in fact no limit on the amount of surface parking permits ANU can issue to full-time undergraduate students and that the parking system is essentially “first-come-first-serve”. They are aware of the problems that exist regarding this issue and have attempted to remedy the crisis, however their only solution so far has been to exclude part-time students and certain staff members from purchasing permits.
The annual fee for a surface permit is $191.40, although students can purchase permits on a monthly basis in order to avoid one large sum up front – The university (unnecessarily) adds an additional surcharge for this stop-start feature. Even though students pay for this permit there is still no guarantee that they will find a parking space within the designated zones. The solution for this problem, according to the ANU, is in purchasing a parking station permit, which gives students a designated spot. Not only is this incredibly expensive , but as stated on the website, “waiting times for parking station car spaces are significant.” Students can expect to wait up to three or four years before they are eligible to purchase a parking station ticket.
So then what is there to do? Well, there is also ability to ‘pay and display’. Obviously, some of the most convenient parking spaces at uni are of this sort. So why would anyone purchase a surface permit in this case? You buy it, only to not find a space in your designated area and then are forced to pay yet again for the display ticket (only if you want to circumvent the risk being fined). You can risk not buying one, but infringement penalties range from $79.00 to $200.00
The parking crisis has become so ridiculous at ANU that students are now making jokes about it on the “ANU Meme” page on Facebook. Slogans including, “I don’t always park my car illegally, but when I do it’s usually because all the permit spots are gone” and “one does not simply find parking at ANU” were two notable contributions that made me chuckle. However, this really isn’t a laughing matter. Having talked to some first years in particular, a number state that they have been late to classes or missed entire lectures because they spent so long searching a safe/legal space to park.
Furthermore, and what is possibly one of the biggest travesties of this predicament (after that of the ridiculously low amount of permit spaces available) is the fact that the university itself is fining students for parking in incorrect areas. Not the ACT government. So when you get to you car 20 minutes after your ticket has expired, it is ANU that takes your money, yet again… The only other suitable definition for this business tactic is “money grabbing”. President of ANUSA, Aleks Sladojevic, when asked about the parking situation at ANU, somewhat dejectedly replied, “We are fighting a losing battle”. So what can we do about it? We can sit here all day and point fingers at the University, or ANUSA, or continue to abuse parking inspectors under our breath , but nothing will be resolved. Although a number of suggestions were made, ANU for one reason or another, does not consider this a pressing issue.
One suggestion that was made is for the construction of a multi-storey car park. With all the construction currently going on around campus, as well as the copious amount of funding they make each year from permit prices, pay parking and fines, surely they could find the means to add a 5-storey car park somewhere?
Moreover, the University of Canberra provides their students with free parking (not to mention ‘enough’ parking as well). Yet for years, ANU argued that being so closely located to the city, we run the of risk non-university members using our spaces if we made parking free; but every student card tgrants us entry into various rooms and labs over campus. Why can’t this also function as entry into a parking lot for students?
Another plausible solution to provide immediate results could be to merge pay & display parking spaces with permit spots. In doing this, students would be able to park freely provided they have purchased a parking permit and they therefore won’t risk getting booked. Also, visitors or students without permits can park wherever they choose and will not get fined provided they purchase a display ticket. From a business perspective, ANU actually stands to gain even more under this approach.
There are easy solutions to this pressing problem. Most of these suggestions could be thought up in an afternoon. Regardless of what is decided, the one thing that’s certain is the need to pave ANU and put up a parking lot. And preferably soon.