WCU campus parking rate changes to resume for 2017-18

A tiered system of gradual increases in rates paid by Western Carolina University students, faculty and staff for the privilege of parking on campus will resume for the 2017-18 academic year, university officials have announced.

The staggered increases in annual parking rates, part of a long-term plan adopted by the WCU Board of Trustees in December 2013, began in the fall of 2015. University officials delayed the increases scheduled to take effect in August, and those increases will now go into place effective July 1 for the 2017 fall semester.

The parking rate plan arose from recommendations geared toward meeting parking needs identified in WCU’s strategic plan “2020 Vision: Focusing Our Future,” and in the university master plan. The master plan emphasizes the goal of having a pedestrian-friendly and walkable campus, with the majority of parking pushed to the perimeter of campus. The master plan also identifies the need for the eventual construction of a parking deck.

“Moving toward a more pedestrian-oriented core of campus fits perfectly with Western Carolina University’s emphasis on being an environmentally responsible institution,” said Fred Bauknecht, director of parking and transportation. “We are encouraging members of our campus community to park their vehicles and either walk or take advantage of our Cat-Tran shuttle service. Doing so reduces fuel consumption and emissions.”

Under the resumed parking rate plan, employee parking permits are sold through a tiered system based on salary level, with the lowest paid employees paying the least for permits and those employees who have the highest salaries and who have reserved parking spaces paying the most.

Student parking permits are sold on the basis of earned academic credits, with freshmen paying the highest rates while seniors and graduate students pay lower rates. Student parking rates, which currently range from $148 to $248 annually depending upon earned academic credits, will range from $174 to $324 per year for 2017-18.

Parking permits for faculty and staff currently cost between $120 and $274 per year, based on employee salary. Those rates will range from $132 to $363 per year for 2017-18. Rates for reserved faculty/staff spaces on campus will go from $424 to $588 annually.

Different rate structures apply for commuting undergraduate students and for motorcycle permits.

Even with the increases, parking costs at WCU will remain consistently among the lowest in the University of North Carolina system, with some institutions charging rates of more than $800 per year and restricting freshman from parking on campus, said Mike Byers, vice chancellor for administration and finance.

“We decided to push the pause button on parking rate increases for the 2016-17 academic year to give members of our campus community a little more time to adjust to and plan for the increases,” Byers said. “As enrollment continues to grow and as construction and renovation projects consume some of the parking spaces in the center core of campus, it is time to resume efforts to find the resources necessary to allow our parking facilities to keep up with the needs of a growing university.”

The annual incremental increase in rates is needed to enable the parking operations unit to remain self-sufficient in operational funding, he said. Parking is an auxiliary unit of the university, meaning that no state funds are appropriated to parking services to fund personnel costs, maintenance of existing lots or construction costs. In addition, state law requires that any fines collected for campus parking violations are transferred to kindergarten through 12th-grade schools in North Carolina.

For more information, visit the WCU Parking Services website, which features a list of frequently asked questions, at parking.wcu.edu or call 828-227-7275.