Western needs parking fees to deter students from driving for pedestrian safety and environmental reasons. But, with the current state of public transportation in London, those fees need to be reduced.
Western University has long been under fire for its expensive parking and lack of spaces — students pay $337.54 or $678.35 for a one semester parking pass and $612.51 or $1,220.99 for an annual pass, depending on the level. Western maintains that limited parking spaces and not adding more lots is in line with maintaining an eco-friendly campus, where students walk or take public transit to classes.
The eco-friendly goal is great in theory, but the reality is that some students, especially low-income students, do not live within walking distance from campus, or on public transit routes.
London’s plans for bus rapid transit in the campus area were also shot down, meaning that public transit in the city is not reasonable or accessible for all students. In order for a high parking fee to truly detract cars from campus, public transportation needs to be significantly more accessible than it currently is.
Students are already paying large amounts of money for their education at Western. Expecting them to pay an additional several hundred dollars just to access that education is unreasonable, especially for students that commute from London’s surrounding areas.
Students also need campus to be as car-free as possible to be safe walking around campus, but expensive fees are clearly not keeping these cars off university property. Students opt to loiter in front of central locations like Alumni Hall rather than risking a ticket to park in a lot.
Free parking would be ideal for many students, but there aren’t enough parking spaces to realistically facilitate that kind of change. Plus, the environmental and pedestrian impacts of increased cars on campus could be dangerous in the long run.
Some might say that Western wouldn’t be able to afford the loss of a reduced fee. But, reducing the cost of parking could come in a few different forms. It might mean only offering students who live more than 15 kilometers away from campus a free or more affordable pass. Not to mention that Western has already offered free parking in January and February due to class cancellations.
At the end of the day, no one wants more cars on campus, but public transportation isn’t accessible enough in London to avoid them and current prices are making accessing education even more expensive.