On-campus parking permit prices increase to cover operation costs

The Public Safety Administrative Services Office increased prices for both commuter and residential parking permits on campus this fall.

On Aug. 26, the Public Safety Administrative Services Office sent an email to students stating that the price of yearly permits for students who commute from home — which according to Tufts’ Public Safety website “allows daytime parking only between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 1:00 a.m.” but bars overnight parking — increased by $15 to $325, and semester permits increased by $5 to $160. Additionally, student residential yearly permits, which include overnight parking, have increased by $30 to $650, and semester permits increased by $15 to $325.

Fleet/Transportation Manager Andrea Breault explained in an email to the Daily that the rise in price is intended “to offset the costs associated with parking operations.”

The expenses she listed included those required for decals, passes, the online parking software system, licensing, safety and parking signage, parking lot and crosswalk re-striping and the Dowling Hall garage real estate.

Parking passes for undergraduate and graduate students are available by semester or by year, and can be purchased online. Underclassmen are not eligible for these permits, according to Administrative Services Supervisor for Public Safety Administrative Services Louis Galvez.

According to Breault, all students who park on campus are required to clearly demonstrate these permits or, if applicable, a daily parking pass.

However, in comparison, the City of Medford’s parking program costs $10 for a residential or visitor parking permit for one year.

Breault explained that even though Medford residents can purchase residential parking passes for $10 through the city’s parking department, those permits are not applicable on campus, just as a Tufts parking permit does not allow parking on Medford streets.

She compared Tufts’ parking prices to Harvard University’s $1,896 charge for 12-month unreserved surface parking, noting that the City of Cambridge parking permits cost $25 per year.

“Permit prices are determined by market value,” Breault said. “The value of an existing street, in which vehicles previously did not pay for, will be valued at a lower price. As for a university setting, the land which becomes a parking lot may be much more valuable, as that land can serve as an academic building rather than a surface parking lot.”

Without proper permits, drivers risk receiving citations when parking on campus. If car owners who are issued parking citations fail to pay, their bursars accounts are directly charged for the citations. If the vehicle is not registered in the system, it is towed after the third unpaid citation, according to Deputy Director of Public Safety Leon Romprey.

According to Romprey, the department strives to communicate with the owner before towing a vehicle.

“The department also issues a warning email stating that his/her vehicle is at risk for being towed,” he told the Daily in an email. “Prior to a tow, the office brings the tow to the attention of the manager to ensure that all preventative and communicative protocols take place before the tow. However, parking violators with no previous citations who are causing safety hazards such as obstructing emergency access lanes may be towed without prior warning.”

Romprey explained that at the beginning of the academic year, the department issues warnings through mid-September in order to encourage violators to “self-correct” and acquire the proper documentation. This fall, full enforcement began on Sept. 14. He noted that the paid citations contribute to offset operational costs for management of on-campus parking.

“We understand that parking enforcement is unpopular, however, a lack of enforcement could negatively impact limited parking resources, preventing those who have properly obtained a parking permit from parking,” Romprey said. “In some instances, a lack of parking enforcement can create hazards to public safety. Therefore, we expect motorists who park on campus to do so with proper authorization and in accordance with Tufts University’s parking rules and regulations.”

Breault mentioned that there is currently parking availability on campus, and that parking “may be at a premium” only during large-scale campus events which do not usually fall during business hours.

“There is ample space on the Medford/Somerville campus, however the space may not be exactly where people wish to park,” she said. “Parking is on a first come, first serve basis.”

According to Betsy Byrum, the program administrator for the Office of Sustainability, data from the university’s annual transportation survey conducted in the spring shows that, among 1,192 undergraduates who responded in 2015, 14 percent of undergraduate respondents own a car and 15 percent indicated that they can borrow or rent one.

Of students who owned cars, 38 percent indicated that they use their cars at least weekly for work/internships, 20 percent for student organizations, 17 percent for volunteer work, 15 percent for academics/field trips, 13 percent for other Tufts-related purposes such as sports, 10 percent for club sports and three percent for Tufts Mountain Club activities.

Of the undergraduate survey respondents, 12 percent reported that they had used Zipcar (a car rental service), 97 percent had reported riding the Tufts Davis Square shuttle and 26 percent reported using the Tufts Bike program.

According to Breault, there are currently eight Zipcars on campus, and two additional Zipcars are slated to be added this fall.

The university also provides a shuttle that commutes between the Aidekman Arts Center, the New England Conservatory and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA). Breault noted that Tufts does not own or manage parking facilities in the City of Boston at the other stops on the shuttle.

Fifth-year Tufts and SMFA Combined Degree student Maureen Hilton explained that while the shuttle makes rounds several times a day during the week, there are no transportation services provided for students on the weekends, despite some students needing to access the facility for weekend classes and for completing homework assignments.

She also noted that the schedule on which the shuttle runs does not allow much flexibility for students.

“There’s no shuttle on the weekends, so if I have to go work on stuff in the studio, I have to take the T,” Hilton said. “It’s also difficult for afternoon classes, because how they have it scheduled, at the earliest, you’ll show up 30 seconds before your class starts.”

She said that there have also been tardiness issues with the shuttle, but expressed hopes that the system will run better under new management from A&A Metro Transportation, the same company that now runs the Davis Square Shuttle.

Even though most of her peers with cars do not have trouble finding parking spaces on campus, parking is especially difficult for combined degree students because they need to pay separate parking fees at the SMFA in addition to obtaining parking permits from Tufts, according to Hilton. She explained that if parking was not so expensive on campus, she would consider bringing a car to help her commute to the SMFA.

She noted that two of her three weekly trips to the SMFA are usually taken on the T. She recommended that because of Tufts’ partnership with the SMFA, students in the Combined Degree program should get discounted rates on parking or on public transportation.

“It would definitely be helpful if we didn’t have to pay so much for public transportation,” she said. “I think that’s the biggest thing. Even with a Charlie Card, it’s very expensive to go there and back.”

According to the SMFA’s website, students are eligible to purchase discounted Charlie Cards through the school. While Tufts offers discounted Charlie Cards for graduate students at the Boston and Grafton campuses and for undergraduate student groups, individual undergraduate students are not eligible.

Breault noted that she is working with Operations to discuss whether a weekend shuttle can be added between Tufts, the New England Conservatory and the SMFA.

While these policies do not affect the majority of Tufts students, as demonstrated by the results of the annual transportation survey, Breault emphasized that all of the parking rules and regulations were crafted in the best interest of the Tufts community.

“The Tufts University parking philosophy is to make and enforce parking regulations for the safety and welfare of students, employees and visitors, and for the efficient operation of the University,” she said.