UBC Okanagan students are demanding changes be made to the school's parking system through a petition that has gained more than 1,500 signatures.
UBC Okanagan student union vice president Cade Desjarlais says the price of parking on campus is far too high.
“Unfortunately, students don’t have other options because of how far removed our campus is from the city centre, and so this is a basic problem of accessibility, affordability, and in some cases safety and security,” explained Desjarlais. "Parking is too expensive."
Fees are between $75 and $95 per month, depending on the lot. For comparison, Okanagan College charges $55 per month at its Kelowna campus.
Other students shared similar opinions.
"Crowded, and they ask you to pay a ridiculous amount of money on top of tuition. It's pretty ridiculous. To get to class with your car you have to pay something like $800," said a student in a UBCO parking lot Friday.
"For the past five years they've been expanding the school with new residences ... but they've done nothing about the parking," added another.
In response to the petition, UBCO explained they have made a commitment to addressing climate change through the institution's own targets. The car is responsible for more than half of all carbon emissions on campus and there is also more parking demand than spaces on campus.
"Our goal, with respect to both considerations, is to decrease the number of single occupancy vehicles that come to campus each day. That means that a single occupancy vehicle cannot be both the most convenient and most affordable means of commuting to campus," UBCO said in a statement.
"Parking fees serve as a way to rebalance that equation and redistribute funding towards initiatives that encourage alternate means of commuting to campus."
UBCO's statement says all students receive a subsidized U-Pass transit pass as part of their enrolment fees.
But for Desjarlais, the Central Okanagan transit system just is not adequate.
“The transit system is not reliable. It doesn’t do the job it needs to be doing, and it’s not a good system for students to access the community or our campus," he said. "Buses don’t run past 6 p.m. for most of the time in the busiest of routes, buses are leaving before classes are ending, and they’re just not coming on time."
“I wish I could bus," he continued. "I’d much rather bus and save money, but because of where I live, it’s much more convenient and reliable for me to drive to school.”
The student union is hopeful a petition full of signatures will at least help to kickstart some changes.
“Year after year, tuition increase after tuition increase, students are sick and tired of paying money for simple services and simply accessing the campus," he said.
Desjarlais says they would like to see additional subsidy of the U-Pass transit pass and a decrease in parking fees until the local transit system is "up to par."
UBCO says they are aware that transit connections between campus and some Kelowna neighbourhoods are lacking and they "working closely with our transit partners, including the UBC Okanagan Students’ Union, to highlight the concerns of our campus community. "