By Ron Guillet
Some students may feel the parking rates at Laurentian University are high, but Laurentian chief of staff Chris Mercer assures they are below city rates and consistent with other universities.
The current rate for lot 15, otherwise known as “the pit,” is $219 for a year-pass, or $109.50 per semester, while the other lots are $467. Metered parking requires a minimum of two dollars, which grants an hour. To break it down, a student who goes to the university five days a week for the year and has a lot 15 parking pass would pay approximately $1.75 per day. The $467 parking passes equal to approximately $3.75 per day.
Mercer said the parking rates are established based on other universities and the City of Greater Sudbury.
“We bench mark against the sector and we also benchmark against the community,” Mercer said. “We certainly want to make sure we’re not out of line, but I believe parking rates for our sector range from about $100 from the absolute bottom end per year, to about $1700 per year on the absolute top end. As we look at our community here, we’re actually one of the lowest ones. The hospital is over $1000 per year and the city is somewhere between $700 to $800 per year.”
Mercer also said that Laurentian had added around 100 parking spaces over the summer as well as “pay and display” type parking for people who don’t frequent the university often and don’t want to purchase a parking pass. Despite the new parking spaces, Mercer said the university could use additional ones.
“We’re seeing more and more demand for additional parking space, and, with that, we need to respond to that demand,” Mercer said. “We’re talking about where we can possibly add additional lots and what kind of parking infrastructure is going to be needed in the coming years so that people can have parking accessible, and affordable, to them.”
Nicole Beaulieu, a student in the Labour studies program, feels the parking rates are too high for students.
“Parking at Laurentian University is a joke,” Beaulieu said. “The prices are way too high for students, especially for ‘the pit’ parking lot, as it is far from the school, unpaved and dangerous during the winter season.”
Beaulieu also expressed concern for the lack of parking spaces.
“There’s not enough parking spaces,” Beaulieu said. “For students who only have classes in the afternoon, it is extremely difficult to find a spot to park by the time they get to the school because almost all of the lots, including the meters, are full.”
Heather Condon, a student at Laurentian University, feels the parking rates at Laurentian would be justified if students could use multiple lots with a single parking pass.
“I don’t see how it’s fair that I have to pay almost $500 to park at one end of campus,” Condon said. “I go to the gym a lot and I have several classes in the Education Building so I bought a Ben Avery parking pass. But I still have to walk up to the Arts building every day, which is a far enough walk, especially in the winter. I think Laurentian should sell dual passes for more than one parking lot if they are going to charge such ridiculous prices.”
Mercer said Laurentian garners profit from parking, but that the money is allocated into university priorities, such as academics.
“Plowing, repaving, creating new spaces and parking enforcement all have costs associated,” Mercer said. “This year our choices in terms of reinvesting any additional dollars that we had went into academics, so we put two million more into academics and roughly $300,000 more in student supports, which comes from things such as parking.”
If students have difficulty finding a parking space on campus, Mercer said there is a procedure in place to address such issues.
“There are telephones in every lot, and if a lot is full a student can be upgraded at no cost,” Mercer said. “Our parking office will help any student or any person who can’t find parking to make sure they have a spot without being charged (extra) if the lot they paid for is full.”
Mercer said although Laurentian’s parking is adequate now, the university will continue to develop the service.
“I know it’s maybe not a perfect system but I think it works fairly well and it’s one that we will continue to learn from, and listen,” Mercer said. “If it stops working, then of course we’ll have to address that and meet everyone’s needs.”