Most of the money (62 percent) collected from parking citations goes toward Cal Poly's contract with the San Luis Obispo bus system. All Cal Poly students, staff members and faculty can ride the bus for free.

Shelley Westerson
Special to Mustang News

Parking on campus: It’s a big hassle to some and big money for the university. But where does that money go, and what will the future hold in terms of available spots? Mustang News investigated.

In the 2014-15 academic year, Cal Poly students will have contributed to the $5.4 million collected for parking fines and fees. Come Fall 2015, 484 parking spots will be lost.

“I think it’s a really poor system because the passes are so expensive, but then you show up and it’s the luck of the draw or following someone in your car to get a spot,” business administration junior Savannah Baffert said. “Otherwise, you have to park miles away from class and you have to choose: Do you want to be to the far left side of campus, or 10 minutes away from class in the other direction?”

With the price of parking passes, students like Baffert think there should be more parking available, but revenue does not necessarily mean profit. Here’s where all that money is going.

First, let’s break down the citation revenue. Last school year there was approximately $650,000 total revenue from parking tickets, according to the Assistant Director of Business Services at University Police Department (UPD) Marlene Cramer.

Free buses

A majority of the revenue, approximately $400,000 (62 percent), is paid to the San Luis Obispo City Bus contract which allows students, faculty and staff to ride the buses for free.

“A lot of people think that the city is providing transit as a gift to the university,” Associate Director of UPD Cindy Campbell said. “The city actually works with us to provide convenient service to Cal Poly. We contract with the city for the service, but we pay for it with parking citation revenue. It’s not free.”

In the citation fine there is a $13 charge toward state-mandated fees, so $188,000 (29 percent) goes to the state and does not come to Cal Poly.

After that, the school is left with approximately $60,000 (9 percent) in citation revenue. Most of this is used for the alternative modes of transportation at Cal Poly such as the escort van, Regional Transit Authority (RTA), rideshare and vanpool.

“We are spending more than we are making in citations. So what we aren’t paying, or covering in what we bring in in citation revenue, we are subsidizing with fees revenue, parking permits,” Campbell said.

And it’s true, they are spending more than they are making. Citation revenue is only a small fraction of the money coming in from parking. The big ticket item is parking permits, which will bring in about $4.6 million this year alone.

Poly canyon village parking structure

The bond debt, or loans, for the Poly Canyon Village parking structure is being paid off by a majority of the permit revenue, which is about $1.8 million each year. The next largest portion is made up of salaries and benefits and is nearly a $1 million. Everything else goes toward operating expenses, facilities services and maintenance.

The Grand Avenue parking lot (R2 and G1) that will be closed in the fall offers 484 general use and 825 residential spaces. Only about 200 residential permits are being sold. According to Campbell, the plan is to build the new residential halls here along with a parking structure that will provide 483 spaces for general use only (commuter students), not on-campus residents.

Less parking next year

Concerns have been voiced over availability of parking over the next several years while the project is being completed. Campbell says administration expects students to start using the less popular lots like H1 and H14.

“I think sometimes the perception people have is that it takes longer to walk than it actually does. I also think that we are all going to have to plan ahead and expect longer walks from parking lots to the campus core than we are used to,” Campbell said.

Eventually, the money is going to benefit commuter students by giving them more parking on Grand Avenue and taking spots away from residents that don’t necessarily need to park so close to campus.

“Some students that live in residence halls use their cars, but they use them infrequently,” she said. “It’s really considered by most campuses across the nation as ‘storage parking.’ So we said, should storage parking be taking up prime real estate? And the answer really is no, you need to be able to provide parking for residences, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be immediately adjacent.”

In other words: She said that come Fall 2015, parking will become hectic at Cal Poly with the loss of those 484 spots, but there will still be room for everyone to park. It just won’t be in the most ideal parking lots.

If you would like to voice your opinions on the upcoming changes in parking, there is an open forum being held Thursday, March 5, in the Julian A. McPhee University Union (65), room 202.

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