UNC drops night parking fee for now

08/19/2014 12:00 AM

08/19/2014 2:44 PM

The chancellor’s office has put on hold a plan to start charging people to park at night on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.

The university is refunding a $10.40 student fee after suspending the plan Thursday, the afternoon before it was to begin. Employees who bought night parking permits starting at $227 a year will get refunds too.

“We’re not canceling the policy; we’re deferring it,” said Matt Fajack, vice chancellor for finance and administration.

Letters to the editor, phone calls to university trustees and the chancellor’s office, and input from students and staff led to the decision to further study the issue, he said.

The issue will be taken up during the 2015-16 academic year, Fajack said, when the next five-year plan addressing university parking will be drafted. There will be opportunities for public input as part of that process.

The now-suspended plan would have charged nightly, weekly and yearly rates for evening parking as a way to spread costs to all users, part of a long-term development plan that projected costs for parking-deck upgrades and other improvements.

“We spent five years working on a plan that was going to be equitable for all employees, that was approved by the Board of Trustees,” said Jackie Overton, a member of the Advisory Committee on Transportation, the board that crafted the plan.

Senior leadership in Chancellor Carol Folt’s office, not the transportation advisory committee or the Department of Public Safety (which manages campus parking) made the decision to suspend night permits, Overton said.

The university charges for parking during the day, and as part of the changes that still will go into effect, daily rates will be split into a.m. and p.m. permit tags, for those who only use the lots during one half of the day.

Overton said day users shoulder an unfair burden when it comes to parking at UNC, which she said has long operated under a “Mayberry mentality” in which most activity happens during the day.

“We have a Level-1 trauma hospital and a student population approaching 30,000, and we’re a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation,” she said.

Overton said that in 20 years, her parking costs as an employee have more than doubled.

“The daytime permit holders are bearing the burden for the entire system,” Overton said, adding that a 2 percent increase for day permits under the plan will remain.

“I got emails from people saying, ‘I want my 2 percent back,’ ” said Overton, former president of the university’s employee forum.

Overton said that in the 1990s the employee forum lobbied for state money to help fund parking services at UNC, so that the burden would be off employees and students.

“We petitioned the entire legislature to consider funding parking for employees, because we didn’t think it was fair to pay to come to work,” she said.

“The legislature won’t fund any parking on any campus,” she said.

Critics of the proposed plan had noted that daytime employees have greater ability to use the town and university’s fare-free bus service and park for less money at outlying park-and-ride lots. The buses run less frequently at night.

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