The Erindale College Council is considering a motion to extend the upper parking deck in lot 8 by 300 spaces at a cost of around $6.5 million. The project, to be completed by fall 2015, would be financed by having parking fees increase by 3% each year.

The operating plan for the parking expansion reasoned that UTM is a commuter campus, and that with increasing enrolment each year, UTM will be short on parking spaces by 2015.

This year there are 2,378 parking spots on campus. Last month, UTM Parking Services reported, “Currently, everything is available, except for premium unreserved and carpool.”

“Premium unreserved” is a first-come, first-served permit that allows permit holders to park in lots 4, 5, 8, and 9. It is the second-cheapest pass and allows drivers to park in most of the available lots.

The UTM Resources Planning Committee wants to use parking permits and Pay and Display revenues to cover the cost of the lot 8 expansion. To continue turning a profit they would have to raise permit prices by an extra 3% each year until 2015.

Professor Lee Bailey, the chair of the Resources Planning Committee, explained that every year parking fees would have to increase to keep up with inflation anyway, which is approximately 2%. By raising parking fees by 3%, the fees will track and outpace inflation.

Bailey said that parking fees at York, U of T Scarborough, and McMaster increase by at least 3% every year. The exception is the St. George campus, whose parking fees increase by only 2.5% per year.

“By a modest increase over the next three years, we can avoid the financial shock that would happen if we waited until 2015 when we run out of spaces,” said Bailey. He estimated that if they only started financing for the expansion in 2015, they would have to suddenly raise parking fees by 40%.

“People who drive pay for parking. If parking costs increase, we don’t increase tuition,” said Bailey. He also pointed out that parking fee increases do not just affect students, but faculty and staff as well.

“Many staff don’t earn big salaries, and they pay to park. If you earn 40 [thousand] a year, a thousand is a lot to pay in parking. Clerical staff and administrative staff don’t get a U-Pass, either,” he added.

Each year, UTM makes approximately $3 million from parking permits and from pay-and-display. Approximately $2.5 million is paid back in maintenance, repairs, and balancing the $1 million loan taken out each year to finance the building of the underground CCT parking garage.

This year, annual revenue dipped to $478,379 from an estimated $585,658, because of unplanned maintenance and signage involved in building lot 8.

A similar revenue of $578,744, including the permit price increase, is forecasted for next year. The Resource Planning Committee wants to “stash away” some of the 2012–13 and 2013–14 revenue as a down payment on the lot 8 expansion, explained Bailey.

The parking fee increase will raise the cost of reserved permits from $880.33 to $906.74 per year for lots 1 and 5 and the CCT underground parking. A reserved permit means the permit-holder is always guaranteed a parking spot, so if there are 300 spaces, the parking office will issue 300 permits.

Premium unreserved permit passes will increase from $628.27 to $647.12 per year for lots 3,4, 8, and 9. With a premium unreserved pass, a permit-holder can park in any of the four lots, but is not guaranteed a spot. The parking office deliberately oversells these permits, since not every permit-holder is at UTM all day every day, so there are usually still spaces available.

Unreserved permits will go from $607.90 to $626.13 per year for lots 4 and 8. This permit is similar to the premium unreserved permit, except that the permit-holder can only park in lots 4 and 8.

Afternoon permits will rise from $509.23 to $524.51 per year for lots 3,4,8 and 9. These permits are good after 3:30 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends, and are intended for people taking evening classes. The carpool passes will also increase accordingly depending on the lot and whether the space is reserved or not.

There will be no increase in the pay-and-display prices.

The plan to gradually increase parking fees to pay for more parking spaces makes sense, but only so long as students, faculty, and staff can afford the permits.

In past years, UTMSU opposed the increases, circulating petitions and raising awareness to UTM clubs and societies. This year, UTMSU intends to present the ECC with a report of alternatives to increasing parking fees. UTMSU president Gilbert Cassar called high parking fees “a barrier to education”.

“I’m thinking about taking the bus now, because that’s ridiculous,” said James Noga, a fourth-year psychology student. Noga has paid for parking permits for the past three years.

“Nothing’s sold out, because it’s too expensive,” said Noga, commenting on the current parking availability. “Last year it was cheaper to get an evening pass and just get parking tickets the rest of the time.”

This year Noga bought a carpool pass, which works out to around $130 per year if you carpool with four people. This pass was the only one to completely sell out.

“I don’t want to pay for a parking lot I’m never going to see, let alone use,” said Noga.