Parking: A College Student’s Worst Nightmare


Student Parking on Campus I read an article the other day on how Chapman University now auctions off its most valued parking spaces. Yes, you read that correctly; they hold an auction. The system began in 2009 and has been well-received, according to the university’s website. The bidding starts at $1,270 and decreases $20 every 30 minutes. Students place a bid for either the current price or the highest price they are willing to pay. Once the auction ends, winners pay the lowest winning bid and an additional $300 fee. In the case of a tie, the winner is determined by time of bid. The system is designed to give students who pay the premium price a better chance at actually getting into a premium space, no matter when they arrive on campus.

This reminded me of my tortured parking past at college. I, too, purchased a premium pass, thinking I would be assured a space close to my classes and easy to locate. Ah, how naïve I was. What I did not know, and most schools don’t willingly disclose, is that they oversell these spaces. The rationale behind this is that students come and go, have different schedules (times/days), and sometimes even skip class (say it isn’t so). Unfortunately, while this looks good on paper, in practice it completely fails. For the majority of my years on campus, I spent my time ‘stalking’ students in the parking lots. This is where you pick out a student heading to the lot, hoping desperately that he/she is actually leaving. You have to make sure that no other cars have spotted the ‘prey’ and also hope that the person isn’t simply retrieving something from his/her vehicle. When you are on the other side of the equation, it can be a bit nerve-racking (especially at night) to have a stranger slowly following you in a dark vehicle. Over the semester, departing students start to play games with you, too. On more than one occasion, I have followed someone only to have him/her skirt through the row and lose the space. Forget road rage, I was in parking purgatory.

I have lost track of how many hours I spent circling lots for premium spaces and how many times I barely arrived to class on time. I wish, before plunking down a good chunk of money on a premium pass I was hardly ever able to use, someone had shared with me some of the wisdom I have since gained. So, in the spirit of helping others, I give to you my reasons for NEVER buying a premium campus parking pass again.

Premium parking is extremely expensive. The difference between a general pass and a premium pass at my schools was about $240. That’s a lot of Taco Bell and Starbucks!

Instead of spending 30 minutes searching for a space, I could have slept in or met up with some friends before class.

Carpool instead – make new friends, save money, get in a short nap and take advantage of the perks offered at some schools to those who share rides!

Purchase a bus pass. It is super cheap, and you’ll get more exercise.

Buy a bike for less than $200 (including chain & lock) and never worry again about finding a space or the price of gas!

As colleges get bigger in size and student populations grow, the parking headache is bound to get worse. Schools, like Chapman, will try a variety of clever schemes to get students to ante up big bucks for those precious premium spaces, but I say enough is enough. It’s time to look at the big picture and decide what’s more important in terms of our hard-earned cash. The universities get enough from us already in tuition, housing, fees and more. Take a stand by taking a seat on the bus and forgo the parking nightmare I endured. Life’s too short to stalk your fellow classmates just to save yourself a few yards of walking distance.

Have a creative idea for addressing the parking issue on your campus? Tell us about it!


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