The nightmare of student parking at UVic


A struggle every student driver can relate to

File photo by Cormac O’Brien.

It’s a familiar feeling: you’re late for class, driving around Ring Road, feeling hopeless. You’re not finding a spot in Parking Lots 1, 5, 4, or 8 — don’t kid yourself. The time taken to find a space is starting to surpass the commute time. You’re driving in circles, wasting fuel, and billowing out emissions. You start to feel like a vulture hunting for carrion. 

You’re not going to find parking on Cedar Hill X Road; that place has been bumper-to-bumper with other parking pass dodgers since 9:30 this morning. 

You don’t want to annoy the Gordon Head residents by parking your 20-year-old beater in front of their lawn all day. You could park at Caddy Bay, but then you’d have to undergo a small hike before class. 

You consider paying for short-term parking, but your class is only an hour and twenty minutes, and the parking is offered in hourly increments. And you’re not about to dish out $9 to park for the day — students are already economically fragile enough. 

You know all the tricks: the ol’ slap a debit card trick on the machine, the ol’ unscrew your front plate and back up against a bush. Maybe the Orwellian Campus Security cruiser won’t catch you in the dark recesses of the CARSA parkade. 

But as you imagine the rush of adrenaline and cortisol from witnessing the officer slapping that $30 ticket on your windshield, you get cold feet. What with tuition hikes and the cost of gas, you’re not in the mood to play roulette with the dregs of your bank account. 

Looks like you’ll have to shamefully stash your Civic behind the Mandarin church again, praying that they’ll be gracious enough to not tow you this time. 

Meanwhile, professors are standing in the lecture hall, scratching their heads at why the attendance for their 50-minute afternoon lecture is so low. 

As you’re trudging along the Alumni Chip Trail, you ask yourself why you had to endure that rigamarole. We’ve heard it asked a thousand times before: Why am I not guaranteed a parking spot at a place where I already pay thousands of dollars in tuition every year? Isn’t this parking ordeal creating a barrier to education? 

Well, put simply, there’s more demand than supply. According to Patrick Seward, manager of parking and transportation, 51 per cent of the UVic community takes a car to school. Staff and students number close to 27 000. And yet, there are only around 4000 parking spots on campus. You don’t have to be a math major to know something doesn’t add up there. 

Not even staff and faculty are guaranteed a spot in the general parking. The same way doctors and nurses have to pay to park where they save people, teachers have to pay to park where they educate people. 

Why doesn’t UVic just build more parking spaces? 

Parking lots are not a good look. Big concrete fields are a horribly inefficient use of land. That could be green space. That could be housing. The cement industry is also a massive contributor to GHG emissions. 

Sure, they could upgrade current parking facilities, but the cost of excavating and building a seismically sound parkade might make some students think twice, (they estimate it would cost $25 to 30 million).

Currently, the university has no immediate plans to construct new parking. They want to be able to boast sustainable travel. Slightly hypocritical, since UVic couldn’t be bothered to even start divesting until a year ago. But they don’t want more parking spaces; they want more bike lanes, more EVO spots. 

Well, why even drive? Why don’t you just ride your bike? 

There’s a housing crisis; you don’t live anywhere near the school. Nobody wants to show up sweaty from a 50-minute bike ride from Langford.

Why don’t you just use the bus pass? (The one they make you buy.) Assuming you live on a bus route, transit can be unreliable and time-consuming. Some disabled members of the UVic community require parking. We’re also not through with COVID-19 yet, and immunocompromised people might not feel comfortable taking transit. 

So, for the time being, you’re forced to ride this one out. 

That’s great if you’re in a position where you can bike or transit. But having nightmarish parking “at a premium” won’t magically generate a robust system of sustainable transit. It’s just going to annoy the car owners. 

(And Kevin Hall, if you’re reading this, please let me have my degree! I’ve been paying tuition for five years and can’t swing another $120 for my unpaid parking tickets from 2017!)