Western's Parking and Visitor Services has frozen sales of its winter student parking pass. This is the second semester in a row that student parking permits have sold out.
Mark Van Den Bossche, Western's director of Parking and Visitor Services, said in his seven years of experience, this year is the first time that Western has sold out of both fall and winter permits.
"There’s a lot more students with vehicles who are bringing them to campus," said Van Den Bossche. "Typically after Thanksgiving, we see the students come home and the cars don’t come back, but we didn’t see that this year. ... It was very strange."
The winter 2018 permits sold out even faster than the fall permits in first semester.
Fall semester permits expired on Dec. 1, with students able to renew their permits starting Oct. 23. Sales opened to non-permit holders at the beginning of November. Parking services froze sales on Jan. 2; in comparison, fall permit sales were not frozen until mid-September.
Van Den Bossche said they sold around 330 winter term permits, which is about 25 fewer than the number of fall permits sold last semester to account. Parking permits range from three-day to annual permits, with semester-specific passes making up around 15 per cent of the total permits. Van Den Bossche said most permit holders hold annual passes.
In total, students hold just under 2,500 permits, although just under 2,400 student parking spaces are available on campus. While 1,800 spots were available at the beginning of September, Western opened its South Valley lot to students after 9:30 a.m., adding an additional 569 spots. Before the South Valley lot opened, students passes were oversold by close to 40 per cent.
Van Den Bossche attended a conference with university and municipality parking services from around North America, and he said the phenomenon is wide-spread. Along with Western affiliates Huron University College and Brescia University College — which have sold out as well — Guelph University, Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Windsor are also experiencing difficulties.
He added that he and his colleagues are generally unsure about the cause of the recent spike.
Jessica Fischer, a fourth-year sociology and criminology student, had a fall permit but wasn't able to renew it for the spring. She saw an email that renewals were open in October, but didn't rush to pay because she got her fall permit later in the year.
When she tried to renew a week ago, she found the sales had been suspended.
In communicating with parking services, Fischer was told that there was no recourse.
Fischer lives in South Bruce, an hour and a half away from campus, and has to leave at 7:30 a.m. to get a pay-per-use spot at King's, regardless of when her classes start.
When parking became an issue in September, Western's director of media relations, Keith Marnoch, said that there were no short-term plans to build more parking spaces. He did say, however, that Western's upcoming Campus Master Plan is considering the parking shortage.
Fishcer said she was annoyed at the situation and not optimistic that she will find a way around the problem.
"I think students are frustrated, and it's an issue. There just needs to be more parking everywhere," she said.