Western Washington University made $585,490 on parking tickets in 2018. // Photo Illustration by Oliver Hamlin and Stella Harvey
Parking at Western is one of the most complained about topics on Western’s campus, where no one is safe from getting the dreaded yellow paper on their windshield. For example, fourth-year Molly Reetz said she has been ticketed on Western’s campus in the time it took to walk from her car to the parking meter. This is one of many student accounts of dealing with parking at Western, and the money generated from these tickets has added up considerably just in the past year.
In 2018, Western’s Parking Enforcement gave out 16,114 parking tickets, approximately 44 tickets a day, generating $585,940 not including revenue from permits, according to public records.
“All of the services we provide have a cost involved. We charge for our services relative to the cost of providing each service,” Bob Putich, assistant director of the Student Business Office and Parking Operations, said in an interview.
No one is exempt from parking citations, Putich said. Over the course of his employment at Western, Putich has received nine parking tickets, all of which still sit in the top drawer of his office desk. Western’s President, Sabah Randhawa, has also received parking citations, according to Putich. The day before the president’s first day at Western, him and his wife Uzma received a citation after parking in the wrong lot, Putich said.
According to public records, citation revenue covers maintenance and operating fees, which includes software, equipment, staffing and vehicles for parking enforcement. Any extra revenue from permits and citations is applied to lot maintenance and projects like paving the C lots, according to Putich.
Parking Services is a self-sustaining department which means they do not receive state funds, money from student tuition or money from student fees, according to Putich.
In the past, Parking Services used to be its own office with its own staff and debt, according to Putich. Parking Services was recently moved into the Student Business Office because of the debt the office was accumulating.
“Parking Services always operated in a deficit,” Putich said.
Moving Parking Services to the SBO reduced overhead costs by utilizing the SBO’s existing staff. The license plate scanners added to the roofs of parking enforcement vehicles was another way to reduce staff, Putich said.
Western has a student population of over 15,000 but only around 3,800 parking spots available between campus and Lincoln Creek Park & Ride, according to public records. The C lot has 1,250 parking spaces. According to public records, approximately 1,450 long-term permits are available for the C lot, in addition to daily and hourly permits for students or visitors.
The addition of new residence halls on campus will remove around 120 existing parking spots, according to Putich. Putich said he is hoping to relocate those spots to the field behind Science, Math, and Technology Education, which could potentially be home to around 130 spots.
This additional lot behind SMATE would cost around $15,000 per space to build, or around $1.4 million total, according to Putich.
Some students are less than enthused about the level of parking tickets given out at Western. Second-year Kayla Brooks said parking at Western “sucks”. Fourth-year Jessica Niles agreed, saying she was ticketed less than one minute after her permit time frame ended.
Even if students have a permit, finding a parking spot is no easy task.
“Even with a C lot pass I’ve missed class and have been late,” Niles said.
Brooks said she spends about 30 minutes circling the lot till she finds a spot. Despite the apparent lack of parking spots in the C lot, Putich said there have always been spots available this year.
“This year, since September, we have not had an occasion when the C Lot has been full to capacity.” Putich said.
While it’s clear most students aren’t happy with the current availability of parking, a parking structure is likely not in Western’s future.
“A parking structure is estimated at $40,000 per space to build,” Putich said.
He added that the cost of building a parking structure would increase the cost of yearly permits to approximately $1,000 a year, according to Putich.
“It is not likely that Western is prepared for $500-per-year permits for new or additional parking lots or $1,000-per-year permits for structure parking on campus,” Putich said. “I believe we should be looking at alternatives to parking on campus to both keep the cost of parking reasonable and accommodate the planned growth of our campus.”
Putich suggested creating a new park and ride at the old hospital on Billy Frank Jr. street, which students already park at regardless of the no parking signs.
Putich said partnering with Whatcom Transportation Authority and the city in the future
could allow the university to pave the Lincoln Creek parking lot and add internal bus stops. This would make it easier and more efficient for buses to pick up students as well as create easier and cleaner place for students and faculty to park.
However, paving Lincoln Creek Park & Ride will also not be cheap. According to Putich, it would cost around $11 million to finish. The high cost wouldn’t just be for paving the lot, but also moving the bus stops and adding stop lights to the street.
Students who wish to see a change made or would like to voice their concerns about the current parking situation at Western should contact Putich, by emailing him at email@example.com.