Parking at Mount Royal University is more chaotic than ever. New housing construction limits street parking, two new buildings reduce existing parking spots, and the city continues debating transit alternatives for the only Calgary university not connected to the transit system by train.

Electoral candidates met Sept. 19, 2017, at Mount Royal where the Calgary Journal reports discussions about a $208-million project — Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) — and future LRT expansion to the campus took centre stage.

While the candidates debated, the Calgary Journal caught up with three MRU students who shared their chaotic tales of commuting to and from the university, where annual parking permits remain pricey, ranging from $882 to $1,584. 

Parking is too expensive

Jocelyn Alexander, a fourth-year public relations student says she’ll do whatever it takes to save money, even if that means driving to nearby communities, parking, and then riding her bike to the campus.

Although the locations of her parking spots have changed over the course of her four-year program with continuous new residential builds and city-parking signs, Alexander says transit is simply not an alternative for her.

“I have this U-Pass (bus pass) that I never use because it’s just so impractical to get here from anywhere,” she says of her commute from Calgary’s inner city community of Kensington.

“It just sucks, because even when you’re really close, transit takes you so long. It’s faster for me to bike here than it is to take transit.”Fourth-year MRU student Jocelyn Alexander parks in distant communities and then rides her bicycle to campus to avoid parking fees. Photo by Deanna Tucker

As far as parking in front of people’s homes, Alexander doesn’t show any sympathy. “They have garages, they’ve got alleyways, they’re gone during the day.” Even though Alexander parks legally on city streets, she has experienced angry homeowners. “I’ve been yelled at before for parking in neighbourhoods,” she says.

After walking her bike 12 minutes to her parking spot, Alexander starts putting her bike onto her carrack. “Please, have some perspective about why people are parking in your neighbourhood, during hours that you aren’t even there.”

Busy schedule requires driving to campus

Fourth-year history major Dave Sanders doesn’t feel like he has an option getting to and from the campus with his busy schedule either. If he isn’t in class, he’s making his way to work – and coming from the northwest community of Citadel – transit simply isn’t an option.

Instead, Sanders chooses to pay for parking in a visitor parking lot on campus. Even though he attends classes Monday through Friday, he says he couldn’t afford to pay upfront for a parking permit and instead, pays a daily parking fee. On average, Sanders pays $10 to $15 a day, totaling $50 to $75 per week.

“I have this U-Pass (bus pass) that I never use because it’s just so impractical to get here from anywhere,” – Jocelyn Alexander says.

The university has several parking lots on campus, with both hourly and daily parking rates. Two lots at MRU have a flat daily rate of $8.25, while other lots like the one Sanders uses have both an hourly fee and a daily limit of $16 a day.

Parking services manager at MRU, Gerry McHugh, says he understands the diversity of commuting requirements of students, acknowledging the school has “almost every kind of lifestyle here, and with those lifestyles comes all the demands and trappings that make it necessary to commute the way they commute.”

McHugh says although they have more than 4,200 parking spots on campus available to students, faculty and visitors, as the number of students attending MRU increases, so does the need for parking space.

Dave Saunders wasn’t able to pay upfront for a parking pass at MRU, and parks daily in one of the visitor lots. Photo by Deanna Tucker

A commuter himself, McHugh believes improving major arteries to and from the campus will help cyclists, transit riders and students driving to the campus. Even though the BRT system continues to improve, “cars aren’t becoming less prevalent, they’re becoming more prevalent,” he says. This is an issue McHugh and the team at MRU are constantly trying to improve.

Construction of the new Riddell Library and Bella Theatre on campus has reduced the number of parking spots, but McHugh says he estimates only 50 to 80 spots have vanished from the library being built. Considering more parking on campus has always been a priority for McHugh, “If we didn’t, we would fail,” he says.

Although it is a big cost for Saunders – roughly 10 per cent of his earnings – he says parking has a benefit outweighing other forms of transit. “The convenience – you can’t really argue with it,” he says.

Choosing between parking and childcare

Logan Facette will be attending MRU as an open studies student starting January 2018, and says transit will likely be his main form of transportation from his downtown residence.

The aspiring social work student is also a father, with one son in daycare. For him, the decision to pay for a parking permit or take public transit was an easy one. “A large portion of the money I make goes to daycare … it’s about $1,200 a month,” he says.

Logan Facette says sacrificing a parking pass to pay for his son’s daycare takes priority, even though it makes his daily commute much longer. Photo by Deanna Tucker

After factoring in the time it takes to drop his son off, walk to his stop, get to the school and do it all again to get home, Facette says his daily transit commute takes an hour and a half.

Although a future LRT system is a question yet to be solved, Facette says, “Every college or university should have direct access to a train system.”

dtucker@cjournal.ca

Editor: Emily Thwaites | ethwaites@cjournal.ca