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The Fight for Cheaper Parking

Since 2007, the Monash Student Association Education (Public Affairs) Department has been fighting to reduce the high cost of parking on campus. Prior wins have included consulting the university on the implementation of the carpooling system, and allowing students to purchase a six month permit rather than a yearly permit, but the University has always been staunchly rigid in reducing their parking permit prices. But then again, they made a $5,293,000 profit from parking fees in 2011, why decrease it?

The price of yearly blue permits for 2013 is set to increase from $360 to $370, with the University once again feebly citing “inflation” as an excuse to hike up the prices. The problem with this (regardless of the increase) is that a $370 lump sum is not affordable for most. Money doesn’t grow on trees!
If the current price was halved, paying students would have an extra $185 in their bank account, which can buy more than you might think. $185 is approximately the cost of the pill for 37 months, or it can buy 265 condoms. It is two weeks rent, second hand textbooks for a year. It equates to approximately 123 litres of petrol, or the cost of attending our graduation ceremony. You could attend Music On Menzies, a Faculty Ball, and AXP in both semesters. It is the equivalent of 98 pots of beer at Sir John’s Bar, or 47 regular coffees at Artichoke and Whitebait. In addition to these added bonuses, this halved amount would allow more students to afford parking facilities, which the Monash Student Association (MSA) believes to be an important step in mitigating the problems that students face in accessing their education.

On the other hand, the University would argue that since Clayton campus is serviced by numerous buses, has developed the carpool system, and allows free parking on the corner of Wellington and Blackburn roads (the Synchrotron) this shouldn’t be an issue. But are these services really perfect? Let’s do a quick analysis of what’s actually on offer.
Firstly, let’s talk about the obvious option, $370 for a blue parking permit. Blue parking, which you may already know, is the cheapest parking permit on offer at Monash. Why? Because it’s the farthest from the campus. Nice one, Monash. But that aside, if you’re a student living out of home working to support yourself – with or without Centrelink – living pay to pay, trying to make rent, saving almost $400 just for parking is unfathomable.

Secondly, “free parking”. Sadly, the name is deceptive, as competition for the minimal parking space opposite the Synchrotron is fierce unless you arrive early, and during wet periods the poorly paved and grassy areas of the parking complex become what students refer to as “the swamp” – unparkable, unusable, a waste of space. Additionally, after parking, students have to hike up the hill to campus, and 10-15 minutes later arrive at their classes. Not necessarily the best solution if you’re driving to save yourself time on Public Transport.

Thirdly, carpooling. Carpooling seems to be an amazing way to get free parking without the walk, but there’s a catch – you need a buddy. The system relies on the idea that “clearly every day there are two people who drive in the exact same direction at the exact same time”, and as such fails to take into account the problems that students face in accessing the service. What if you have an insanely early class, and none of your friends volunteer to come in early to swipe you in? What if you have class in the late afternoon and everyone’s already at Uni? And even if you get there with a buddy after
12 pm, every staff member and student present at Monash has already claimed the parking spaces.

Students who cannot carpool, cannot find a park at free parking, or cannot afford to pay for a blue permit are then left at the mercy of inefficient and lengthy journey on public transport. For these students, this often means travel times which can be greater than the time they spend in classes (especially if they live in rural or regional areas), or even missing classes due to “bats flying in to train lines” or whatever else our failed public transport system spins into an excuse. Public transport also inhibits a student’s ability to stay on campus for after-hours events such as socials, club events, or just hanging out with mates. This can be limiting on their ability to socialise and can put them at risk of social isolation – a problem that may affect their mental health and study performance.

In light of this analysis, the question remains, “If the alternatives are ineffective, what can be done about parking?”
In 2012, Monash made an extra $8,000,000 due to the SSAF (Student Services and Amenities Fee) – the $273 that every student pays at the start of semester – on top of $5,293,000 parking fees revenue, which could be used to fund, or at the very least subsidize, parking. But did they? No! In 2013, Monash is projected to make $3,000,000 more from the SSAF by way of International students being forced to pay the amount, but still refuse to decrease the cost of parking.

The MSA Education (Public Affairs) Department thinks this is a gross injustice, and plans to campaign and rally in the second week of first semester around the issue of parking access and affordability. Come along and pick up a sign, talk to other students about poor parking at Monash, and sign a petition for the University to decrease parking fees in 2014. The more noise we make, and the more signatures we get, the stronger our cause to Monash – and the more likely we are to make a difference to cash-strapped students, and their ability to access their education.

If you would like to be involved in the planning or coordination of this or future campaigns, send an email to
msa-education@monash.edu

John Jordan

The author John Jordan

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