King's student stuck in parking permit limbo

Dal, SMU and MSVU do not cap their parking permit sales. (Photo: Patrick Odell)

Dal, SMU and MSVU do not cap their parking permit sales. (Photo: Patrick Odell)

Lynette MacLeod sits on the bus for 90 minutes to get to school because she can't get a parking permit for her car.

MacLeod, 22, is a fourth-year journalism student at the University of King's College. She lives in Eastern Passage, which is about 20 kilometres away from the school.

She bought a car to help her make the long commute, but found out from both King's and neighbouring Dalhousie University that she couldn't buy a parking permit.

"I couldn't get one from (King's) because they said I'm on a bus route and not disabled," she said. "I called Dal and they wouldn't sell me one because I'm a King's student."

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Shelley Price-Finn, SMU's custodial and administration manager, said Saint Mary's issues about 75 tickets in its parking lots every day. (Photo: Patrick Odell)

Click to Enlarge A look at the number of parking spaces relative to permits sold at Dal, SMU and MSVU. (Patrick Odell)

Students at King's are not allowed to buy permits to park on the Dalhousie campus, despite its proximity. Michael Burns, director of security services for Dalhousie, said the rules just can't accommodate students from other schools.

"I appreciate that parking in and around (Dalhousie) and King's is a scarce commodity," he said in an email responding to an inquiry about a permit. But, he explained, "this has been the practice for some time and the regulations do not allow for deviation."

Alternative options

Burns suggested alternatives such as parking near a bus terminal to catch a ride or using the parking meters available on campus.

"While these options do not address (the) request for a Dalhousie parking permit, I do believe they offer some relief," he said.

Dalhousie estimates it has sold 2,929 parking permits to students and faculty this year. Despite only having about 2,000 spaces available, it does not have a limit on the number of permits it will sell.

Leigh Horne, a traffic officer for Dalhousie, said the numbers are constantly changing because of the people who buy new permits or return existing ones for a refund.

MacLeod said that parking passes cost too much and should be included in the student fees administered by the universities. A 12-month non-reserved parking permit for Dalhousie students costs $224.70.

"It's like a cash grab," she said. "I've already paid enough in tuition."

Like Dalhousie, Saint Mary's University oversells its parking. Shelley Price-Finn, the custodial and administration manager at SMU, said the school has sold 991 permits for its 824 available spots. A regular student permit at SMU costs $255 for 12 months.

"We have faculty and students who are not here through the entire day," she said. "So a 20-per-cent oversell is reasonable."

MacLeod said she will sometimes park in Dartmouth and catch a bus the rest of the way. Other times, she will take her chances with street parking, but she said both options are poor alternatives.

"I pay $500 a month for a vehicle, so it just doesn't seem right," she said. "Parking on the street makes me nervous because of the bad drivers. People can park too close and damage your car."

Helping hand

Students at Mount Saint Vincent University have another option if the lots are full. Tim Mansfield, the parking clerk at MSVU, said campus security will find a spot when a permit holder has no luck.

"If people pay, we're going to make sure they have a place to park," Mansfield said.

MSVU sells about 1,200 parking permits for its 802 spaces. Mansfield said that despite the high volume of sales, spots are seldom in short supply.

"Our students have classes at different times of the day and different days of the week," Mansfield said. "To my recollection, we have not had 800 permit owners trying to park on campus at the same time."

MSVU charges $175.58 for a full-year student parking permit.

Mansfield adds that although the school does find spots for motorists in need, it is a "very rare" occurrence that only happens a few times each month.

MacLeod acknowledges that the universities can be handcuffed trying to resolve parking issues.

"It's Halifax, and there are always parking issues," she said. "In some ways I don't blame them for (not expanding) because it's better for the environment."

With the end of her studies in sight, she said she has all but given up the fight for a permit.

"It would be a waste of money," she said. "I've already been parking on the street for four years."

 

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