A petition is calling for Vancouver Island University to take stock of a campus parking issue that has gotten “significantly worse” this semester.
The petition was launched last week on Change.org by fourth-year student Edward Nathanson, who wants the university to take the parking problem seriously.
Parking has long been an issue at VIU, but the students’ union reports an unprecedentedly high number of complaints from students this year and challenges with the parking situation with infrastructure projects started on areas formerly for parking and increased numbers of people, such as in trades, needing to access the campus.
Nathanson said he’s noticed parking has been a growing problem over the last couple of years and this September it had gotten significantly worse.
He believes the issue stems from the university selling as many parking passes as it can, as well as limited parking spaces. He said he can drive around for an hour and not find parking in any of the lots.
Instead of complaining about it, he wanted to first see how many other people were affected by parking. There were nearly 1,350 supporters on the petition as of Wednesday afternoon.
“I think it’s great. It really shows it is an issue that needs to be addressed,” said Nathanson, who wants to see a plan to add more parking.
Student Lucas Pallard, who signed the petition, said anytime after 8:40 a.m. there are no spots available on campus, so anyone who arrives later than that is out of luck.
“They have no other choice than to park off site. You can see this issue stemming from the university on pretty much any street where parking is allowed in that region, all along Nanaimo Lakes Road and all along College Drive, all of that is all packed right up with cars.”
VIU Students Union’ staff member Sarah Segal said even those who are used to arriving to campus early to find a spot are finding there aren’t places to park.
“From our perspective it’s not just a parking issue, it’s an access-to-education issue because students who aren’t able to park, aren’t able to access their classes, they’re coming in late or missing classes entirely,” she said.
Segal, who communicates students’ concerns about parking to university staff, has been told the university is aware of the issues and is monitoring the situation.
“I definitely think some kind of solution needs to be proposed, whether it’s a different way of managing the parking that’s available,” she said, adding currently an unlimited number of parking passes are sold and not for designated spots. VIU’s website shows permits do not guarantee a stall.
“So many students buy passes and especially newer students to our campus, who haven’t previously experienced the congestion in the lots, they’ll come to campus on the first day of class and find there’s no parking at all,” she said. “It’s tricky.”
Richard Lewis, VIU’s director of facilities services and campus development, confirmed there’s no cap on parking permits and the university is aware it’s increased the demand and that a little bit of reduction in supply this year, as a result of construction, has put added pressure on parking.
The university has updated its master plan for the campus, which considered parking challenges, but in the short term “we’ve got some work to do, absolutely, and we’re in sort of a transitional period,” Lewis said.
He told the News Bulletin complaints have expedited a transportation demand study, the purpose of it being to develop a concrete plan. It will get going in the next few weeks. Lewis said VIU is also looking at doing a better job of encouraging carpooling and in the long term, see if peak demand can be reduced by scheduling courses differently.
“Taking the holistic view of the issue, petitions, and direct complaints and also through the student union, that’s certainly increased our awareness of the issue and subsequently increased how often we do counts and how closely we’re monitoring and the brainstorming and the other ideas we’re looking at, and the transportation demand study flowed out of all that as well,” Lewis said.
To see the petition visit goo.gl/NfsooX.