Despite not rising in price this year, long-term parking permits at UC Irvine, a primarily commuter campus, are substantially more expensive than permit prices at any other undergraduate UC campus, and are the second-highest in the entire UC system behind UC San Francisco.
Additionally, parking permits at UCI are more expensive than permits at most private and community colleges throughout the Orange County area, including Irvine Valley College and Chapman University.
UC Irvine Transportation and Distribution Services currently charges $303 per quarter for resident student parking. Annually, parking permit fees for students total $909 for the UCI academic year, and $1,212 for the calendar year, including summer session.
In comparison, UCLA charges students $288 per quarter, or $864 for the academic year. UC San Diego charges $183 per quarter, and $732 per academic year.
At UC Santa Barbara, students pay less than half the cost of UCI parking permits — $120 for a quarterly permit and $450 for an annual permit, valid July through June of the following year.
Campuses closer to UC Irvine, though not part of the UC system, charge comparably lower prices for parking permits. California State University, Fullerton, sells student permits for $229 per semester, and offers refunds on passes, similar to UCSB. Irvine Valley College, a local community college, charges $60 annually for parking.
Chapman University, a private university in downtown Orange, has a mandatory permit program — all resident students must purchase parking permits “to promote on-campus parking to lessen the impact on the residents living in close proximity to the university,” according to their website. Chapman permits are $350 per year for full-time students, and $175 per year for part-time students.
UCI’s resident parking passes only allow students to park in designated lots, and do not apply to all lots on campus.
Many permit-holding students complain that this system prohibits them from driving to different parking lots on campus from their apartments or housing areas, and does not allow them to park in other lots if their preferred zone happens to be full.
“I pay around 200 [dollars] every quarter to only be able to park in one specific structure. It’s frustrating, especially when I can’t even find a space to park in,” said Vanessa Sandoval, a commuter from Santa Ana and a fourth-year literary journalism major. “At my old school, Santa Ana College, I paid $30 per semester, so it’s basically next to nothing compared to UCI parking expenses.”
UC Irvine Transportation does not offer specific discounts to students based on their circumstances; UCLA, in contrast, offers a Commuter Student Permit at a $57 discount per quarter, as well as carpool permit discounts — a $99 discount per quarter to two-person carpoolers, and a $180 discount per quarter for three-person carpoolers.
Per UCI Transportation and Distribution’s website, they must charge students for parking permits because the system is “a self-supporting auxiliary unit which receives no State or federal funding. Because of this, all costs must be supported by users of the transportation and parking systems.”
In the 2013-14 academic year, UCI Transportation made over $17 million in revenue, including $11 million on long-term permit sales, and $1.3 million on parking enforcement.
In the same academic year, UC Transportation spent $15.9 million, primarily on infrastructure and loan obligations (32.4 percent), guest and event services (15.5 percent) and parking maintenance (15.2 percent).
UCI Transportation’s parking model and approach is based off of three factors, per their website: “cost, convenience and supply.”
“The principles of convenience, inexpensive and sufficiency at each point are in direct conflict,” the site explains. “Only two principles of the parking triangle can be met, but not three.”
Juliana Bayley, UCI Transportation’s Strategic Communications Manager, explains that the high cost of UCI permits is an unavoidable side-effect of UCI Transportation’s status as a self-supporting system with no outside funding. Their primary source of revenue must come from permit sales and enforcements, or else they would have no way to maintain roads and parking structures.
“[Permit] prices are set based on our debt obligations. Our campus has more parking structures, and newer ones, than other UC campuses, and we have to take out loans on the structures for 30 years or more. It costs a fair amount, and other UCs don’t always have those costs,” said Bayley. “We also focus on infrastructure — we use permit revenue to repave roadways on campus, do maintenance work on structures, things that keep students safe. And this maintenance work does save money in the long run.”
Bayley notes that UCI Transportation does offer parking incentives to students who commit to the sustainable transportation program, and gives students the flexible option to purchase passes monthly, instead of by semester or year, as most other UC campuses require. She also notes that price hikes for permits have been small in past years, to minimize the financial burden on students.
For many UC Irvine students, however, yearly parking passes are a necessity, as the campus is a well-known commuter school. According to UCI Housing, over 12,000 of UC Irvine’s 30,736 students live on campus. More than half of UCI’s total student population, however, relies on transportation to get to and from campus.
Both commuter students and resident students who opt to keep their cars on campus argue that, aside from the cost of permits, parking lots themselves are too limited, as permits only allow drivers to park in a specific lot, and not any lot throughout campus.
“For what we pay, it is ridiculous that we are so limited in our options. Many of the student housing options like AV and Camino are far from campus, and it gets even worse if you move to VDC,” said second-year criminology, law and society major Alyssa Telles. “If we have a car, we should get to use it.”