Last Wednesday, Transportation Services alerted the Pullman campus about a proposed fee structure that will result in a 30% increase in parking permit fees between 2022 and 2025. Some parking lots will be reclassified, including instances where permit parking will be converted to hourly parking. I reached out to Christopher Boyan, Director of Transportation Services, to learn more about this proposal. This included a series of questions and responses shown here (edited for brevity).
- Why was the comment period so short (4 business days)? The primary motivation was to ensure that feedback is available for the next task force meeting scheduled this week (task force information can be found here). Chris indicated that this comment period is shorter than they had planned, but also noted that in similar cases in the past, most comments were received within 2-3 days of when proposals are advertised.
- Where can interested parties find more information about how these funds will be spent? Chris provided the linked summary table to show how they arrived at the $14 MD figure.
- Faculty and students are concerned about continued erosion of parking opportunities on campus. Are all of the hourly conversions justified? Based on the feedback received to date, Chris indicated that there is a reasonable chance the proposed changes will be modified to limit the loss of permit parking spaces. The parking task force will address this point and adjust the proposal accordingly.
Please keep in mind that parking is governed by Washington State Administrative Code, and Transportation Services at WSU must be “self-supporting.” That is, WSU Transportation Services is tasked with financing, managing, and maintaining parking facilities while also facilitating and promoting transportation options on the Pullman campus. This is a self-supported unit and does not receive federal, state, grant, or tuition funding. Revenue for capital projects, maintenance, and operations comes solely from parking fees and fines.
Several faculty have expressed dismay about the rising cost of permits on top of other inflationary pressures and eroding purchasing power relative salaries. To put some perspective on this point, if a faculty member has a green permit, in 2025 they will have to pay $714.80 – 552.00 = $162.80 more than required in 2022. As a point of reference, if the faculty member is making a salary of $100,000 (the average for WSU is closer to $125,000) and if we receive a 3% mass salary increase in 2022 (still under consideration), the proportion of the pay increase going towards the green parking permit will be $162.80/(100,000*0.03) = 5.4% of the salary increase….that is, not a huge impact for this salary range.
Nevertheless, there are important issues of equity that have been raised and these have been succinctly summarized by the Association of Faculty Women. That is, increasing permit fees will have a disproportionate impact on individuals earning lower salaries and, notably, less expensive permit options are relatively hard to find on the west side of campus.
*Given these considerations, and assuming that it was possible to have an income-based fee schedule (i.e., a progressive user tax rather than a regressive user tax), would faculty be willing to pursue this idea?
Other transportation options may be part of the Pullman strategic planning process that is currently collecting stakeholder input.
There have been suggestions that visitors using parking lots during football events should make up the difference, but I suspect that would be a hard ask. Consider that the deferred maintenance amounts to $14 million while there are probably 6-12 times a year when parking lots are reserved for off campus visitors.
Several faculty have also voiced suspicions that funding from parking fees will be siphoned off to somehow support athletic services. This is emphatically not the case as confirmed with my discussion with President Schulz (and he will share some thoughts on this point during his April 7th Faculty Senate address). I respectfully request that we dispense with this supposition.
Thank you for considering this information.
Faculty Senate Chair