Illustration by Celia Fong.

UC Santa Cruz’s Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) crafted a proposal for the spring ballot to increase the cost of parking permits and the hourly meter rate over the next three years.

TAPS is an auxiliary unit that is fueled by student fees, not university funding. The department is currently carrying a deficit that’s approaching $2.5 million. If approved, this would be the first parking fee increase in 10 years. TAPS offered a nearly identical plan to increase parking rates last spring that didn’t pass. The department brought back the proposal, keeping the current definition of a carpool to two people, which was changed last spring and cited as the reason the proposal failed.

“Almost every permit goes up,” said TAPS director Larry Pageler. “I think the only permit that does not go up is the Family Student Housing permit.”

The current proposal includes increasing the cost of most of the existing permits, including the annual and daily A and B permits, gradually over the next three years. The final cost of the annual permits, which are typically sold to faculty and graduate students, will be $900 in 2018-19, up from $792 this year.

Academic R permits, which are for spaces in the remote lots and are typically used by undergraduate students, will increase from $355 to $445 in 2018-19. Other major changes include an increase to more temporary parking options, like the daily A, B, R, N, NC and MC parking permits as well as an increasing rate of hourly meter parking from $1.50 to $2.50 over the next three years.

“Parking fees already feel exorbitant to me, especially on top of the cost of gas,” said graduate student Nicholas Whittington in an email. “We grad students don’t get much of a paycheck for our teaching duties, so further increasing those fees will only further burden my already burdened finances.”

Whittington is in the creative/critical concentration of the graduate literature program and commutes from Oakland two to three times per week.

Even for students who don’t have as long of a journey as Whittington, the parking fee increases would be a burden.

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Analise Dulien, a third-year UCSC student who drives to campus, is concerned. She said having an on-campus pass is never a guarantee for parking, so if it becomes more expensive and spots are more competitive she may have to rely on her bicycle for transportation.

“Getting to campus is kind of a hassle no matter what,” she said.

The hope is that the parking fee increases will help to address the growing operating costs in the department, including salary, fuel and maintenance — and would help build a reserve fund that will be crucial to support future parking structures like the ongoing project on the marine sciences campus.

“Closer to home, here on campus,” said Larry Pageler, “[The fee would help] expand the East Remote Parking lot.”

Since the last parking fee increase a decade ago, the annual parking revenue for TAPS declined 7 percent, particularly because of the department’s push to promote alternatives to driving.

“The more we discourage people from parking, the less we make,” Pageler said.

If approved, this change would occur at nearly the same time as Santa Cruz Metro’s plan to reduce services to UCSC and the university’s plan to enroll 650 more students.

Separately from the services funded by the parking fee, TAPS is also trying to address the Metro cuts.

“TAPS is considering options for increasing on-campus transit service — possibly with a few additional transit-sized shuttles,” Pageler said in an email. “Much more work to be done here — particularly in light of our own budget challenges.”

Pageler said the office is in the process of trying to buy three or four newer buses that were originally intended to replace older pieces of equipment, but said now they are going to add the new buses to the total to meet the increased demand.

“Between the Metro cuts and TAPS’ parking fee proposal,” Pageler said, “there’s a lot going on this spring.”