UBC Okanagan’s location makes for a relatively peaceful campus, but it is also an inconvenient destination for students who attend from as far away as Vernon, Westbank, or Mission. Finding ways to arrive on time for the various lectures and classes that make up a student’s life can be troubling, especially when factoring in the numerous variables that might complicate an easy arrival.

One such complication is parking prices being, well, a lot. 

Increases in the costs associated with parking across campus over the last few years have resulted in current prices. According to University Relations, UBCO is at present equipped with 2900 parking spaces across campus, including short-term, residential, and commuter stalls. For said commuter stalls, permits can be purchased via a waitlist. For the winter term, prices range from $516 for the isolated gravel I lot, to $768 for the more ideally located E, F, G, S, and W lots. There are also hourly, daily, and monthly rates for short-term parking.

For those without a vehicle, these prices can seem like a distant problem. And yet, for some of the students navigating classes, everyday life, and the encompassing difficulties that come with balancing it all together, parking proves to be an additional frustration.

“It’s outrageous. I’m paying as much for parking as I am for tuition,” said one student.

The Phoenix reached out to University Relations at UBC to inquire about high parking prices, and we received the following response:

“Overall, parking policies at UBCO are driven by two key considerations. First, there is far more demand for parking than there are spaces, particularly at peak times of day and periods in the year. Second . . .  [UBCO’s] Climate Action Plan  . . . identified commuting as the largest point of impact, [and it is] responsible for more than half the carbon emissions on campus.”

In other words, parking prices and availability are determined by a combination of campus needs and policies regarding climate action. But how exactly do those reasons reflect in UBCO’s parking policies?

“Our goal, with respect to both considerations, is to decrease the number of single occupancy vehicles that come to campus each day,” wrote University Relations. “That means that a single occupancy vehicle cannot be both the most convenient and most affordable means of commuting to campus. Parking fees serve to rebalance that equation and redistribute funding towards initiatives that encourage alternate means of commuting to campus. These include, most notably, [the] subsidized U-Pass transit passes that all students receive as part of their enrolment fees. A similar program was also recently rolled out to faculty and staff.”

This means that parking is, at least in part, viewed as a necessary supplement to more environmentally efficient modes of transportation. Conceptually, this makes sense, as there’s only so much space available on campus, and efforts to combat the climate crisis are always appreciated. However, for those in positions where commuting by car is their only option, their expensive parking payments are going towards incentivizing alternate means of transportation. In that regard, what is being done to improve the parking situation at UBCO?

University Relations stated, “This past summer, Parking Services installed sensors in all lots on campus . . . The goal of this project was to use the information collected to make data-driven decisions to maximize the utilization of our lots and thus allowing us to offer more permits to more people. [Furthermore,] there is a study underway which is looking at locations where additional parking could be built on campus. We are focusing on how we can best utilize our current parking inventory while supporting alternate modes of transportation and sustainable transportation initiatives.”

In essence, then, high parking fees are a result of walking the balance between supply, demand, and the evermarching conflict of the climate crisis. Is the path the university has taken of incentivizing other forms of travel the right one? It’s possible, but for many who are affected directly by yet another price laid over their educations, it might be harder to justify.