I’m Paying $2,600 a Year to Park at Work

I work at a very large public research university in a very car-centric city. When I joined the university as a staff member, I was informed that I would need to purchase a parking pass. I know many universities have very strange and specific parking policies, for not just students but also faculty and staff. This seemed normal. “Okay,” I thought.

I purchased my pass for the garage closest to my building. It came to $480, which could conveniently be deducted pre-tax from my paycheck, $18.46 every other week. And then I proceeded to drive to my job, and park my car, and so it went on.

Recently, however, I received a promotion that means I’ll be working in a different building on campus. “You’ll need to transfer your parking,” HR informed me. Thinking everything would be just as simple as it was the first time, I trotted down to the parking and transit office.

First, I discovered that the garage connected to my new building was $780 a year (or roughly $30 a paycheck). Since the raise I’m getting with the new job isn’t very large, it was a little disappointing to know an extra $300 a year was going be sneaking out of my paycheck. “Ah, well,” I said, guessing that it was just a fact of life.

But then the cashier had more bad news.

“Actually, that garage is filled to capacity right now, so you’ll have to be on a waiting list before you can purchase your pass.” Huh? But I work here. I asked if there was another nearby garage that I could select. “Nope,” he replied, “there’s no other employee garages that are open that you can park in.”

“Well, I’ll just stay in my current garage then,” I said hopefully, “and walk a little further.” That idea was shot down as well, when he informed me that my old garage was only open to current employees of my former building, and that he’d already cancelled my pass for that garage. Grr.

My only options, he explained, would be to take public transit or carpool (not easy in this city), find parking off campus (virtually impossible, highly unreliable), or to park in visitor parking for $10/day ($2,600 a year!) while I waited on the list. Which, by the way, could take until the next fiscal year (almost 8 month from now). And, by the way, fat chance that the department would reimburse me for my daily parking—it’s against university policy.

So that’s where I’m at, paying the $10 a day to park at work, except for the one day that I convinced a friend who had the day off to drive me to work. And since I can’t really afford the $10 a day, I’m putting it on my credit card. I asked some coworkers about what they did, but they didn’t really have any suggestions for me. And none of them live near me, so carpooling isn’t really viable.

I’m frustrated that I have to pay for parking in the first place, but I’m more frustrated that reasonable parking isn’t even available to me as an employee. It feels like I’m paying a lot of money for the privilege of leaving my car while I work, on top of my regular commuting costs, like gas and insurance. I know that people who live in other cities like NYC and San Francisco have it a lot harder, but they also have better public transit options. And people who work for private corporations usually don’t have to pay for parking. But what do I do? Is this just a facet of a shitty system that I need to get over? I’m scared this is just a facet of a shitty system that I need to get over.


Juno S. sure loves going into credit card debt so she can go to work. But thinks she’s probably not alone on that front.


36 Comments / Post A Comment

Senna (#3,456)

That’s ridiculous. I live in a car-centric city, and the transit authority has a carpool-matching website. Does your city have anything like that? Is public transit a possibility?

jfruh (#161)

One of the things I found most hilarious about UC Berkeley was that there were special parking spots reserved for Nobel laureates. There was a small cluster of them over by the science buildings, but there was a singel Nobel spot near my humanities building, since there was a Nobel-winning poet on the English faculty. Since on-campus parking was very hard to come by (although Berkeley was easily accessible via public transit, so this wasn’t such a disaster), this was a real perk to winning a Nobel Prize for faculty, who could use the spots for life.

@jfruh Ahahahahaha this is amazing. “I want to win the Noble so I can get free parking for life!”

Is there a lot where you can park and then take public transit? Is there even an apartment complex where you could park for transit? I live in a pretty small city with a large university and there are commuter lots. Looking into some non conventional options might take longer but save you some serious $$.

Lee (#5,298)

That sounds like UCLA! I worked in a large office building in Century City and had to pay $220 a month to park in our garage. My employer took it out pre-tax but it still adds up!

@Lee My thoughts exactly- UCLA.

dian (#5,302)

@Lee I just had to register to comment: $220/ month seriously adds up! My academic employer (Stanford) charges 330 per YEAR, pre-tax

WhyHelloThere (#1,398)

I don’t know about your large public university, but at my large public university, here are some options that would exist:

1. There’s a satellite parking lot, which you have to take a bus to get to. It’s a pain in the ass, but lots of people use it.

2. The university runs a carpool matching service.

3. It is possible, although not always a lot of fun, to get to work on public transit.

4. I can ride my bike, although I realize that’s not a possibility for everyone.

5. There are some hidden parking possibilities, which you basically need to hear about via word of mouth. I park on a residential street nearish to campus and then walk about a half a mile. (For some reason, there are always spots on that particular street. I’ve found that it’s quicker to go straight there and walk than to drive around looking for a spot on residential streets that are closer to campus.) There’s a local restaurant that rents out spaces in their lot for a fairly low monthly rate. You have to leave before they open at 6:00.

6. The city has a lot that charges a slightly lower daily rate than the university lots. If I really need to park in a lot, I use that one.

@WhyHelloThere When I worked in a big city, there was a surprising amount of possiblities like #5 on your list. Some local business, especially those like a restaurant or bar, would jump at an extra $100 or so a month. Takes a little leg work, but there might be something out there. Drs offices, lawyers, insurance agencies, etc. accountants might also have an extra space they don’t use. Most can’t imagine the hassle of soliciting someone to rent the space, but if you approach them…worth a shot.

@WhyHelloThere Sounds like UCLA to me. If it is, biking is impossible. There’s no street parking. I once got $1,000 one year in parking fines (once for unloading groceries in my driveway). There are parking lots in the Village but a permit would run her over $200 a month plus she’d have to walk and get really sweaty to boot. I can’t emphasize how screwed the bus system is in West LA. Plus I bet she can’t afford to live just off campus. It’s a fortune to live in the Village not to mention it’s noisy and again, most apartments don’t come with parking spots.

ceereelyo (#3,552)

@Dana Cruikshank@facebook – I agree, is there a residential area near to your campus? I remember a couple of entrepreneurial students when I was back in school that happened to live off-campus very close to the main building on our main campus at school that would rent out parking spaces in their backyard for like $200 a semester. The parking passes for that particular campus would always sell out the quickest, so they got at least one renter each year.

BananaPeel (#1,555)

@WhyHelloThere When I was in school, a church nearby rented spaces out on weekdays. Makes sense, since the lot is empty every day but Sunday!

However I agree with the folks below that the larger system is BS and encourage you to make some noise.

megj (#4,845)

Biking? This might not be an option but it’s a seriously great way to get to work. To prevent sweatiness at work when I biked, I would put my work shirt in my bag and just wear a camisole/ tank while biking, then I would pat off most of the sweat in the office bathroom and put on my office blouse.

Maybe try negotiating with your new boss to cover the increase in parking? Present how much more your parking cost is now and how it undermines the promotion and see if your boss will increase your salary to reflect the increased cost.

jquick (#3,730)

@megj S I suggest refreshing with baby wipes. Really does cool you off and makes you feel clean.

erinep (#4,236)

OMG. My first reaction was to vomit when I read the headline. I can’t handle paying to park my car for work, and I only live 3 miles away so I bike/bus. Parking for state employees (like me) runs from $90-$110ish I think.

OllyOlly (#669)

Wait, did you talk to HR about this after you were shut down by the parking cashier’s office? I would start poking around HR or your direct chain in your office to find someone who can get your privileges moved to another garage. There is someone that has the power to do this, just might be difficult to figure out who they are.

wrappedupinbooks (#1,426)

@OllyOlly yes, yes just make noise until someone helps you. Most valuable lesson I ever learned at work is that if you can get someone important to say something even once about your problem, it will get fixed immediately.

mysterygirl (#2,058)

@OllyOlly : Agreed. I dread conflict, but when the parking office at the university where I used to work decided not to give me a parking permit in the proper lot due to an error on their part, I refused to leave the office until the manager would speak to me, and he was so eager to get rid of me that he pushed it through.

@wrappedupinbooks “if you can get someone important to say something even once about your problem, it will get fixed immediately.”

^ this. For everything.

I would seriously take the complaint to HR or the people who transferred you. Your employment contract guaranteed parking at a certain rate. You should be reimbursed for the difference.

andnowlights (#2,902)

…this is ridiculous. Just stupid. I’d talk to someone high up in your office or HR, because parking thinks they’re special everywhere and it’s insane to tell you that there’s no where you, as an employee, can park. I’m mad for you! Sounds like something that would happen in Atlanta or Nashville.

charmcity (#1,091)

I was spending about $5 to take public transit to work in my old job. When I moved, I had to start paying to park at work until I could figure out how to get a parking pass so that I could leave my car on the street near my home and walk or take a (free!!!) shuttle to my new job. It took me two months and probably $250 in daily parking (which went up a dollar last month to $7/day for staff)to make this happen, because I needed to make four separate trips to the DMV and city parking offices, in addition to the state inspection process which ultimately cost $300 entirely unnecessary dollars on top of the $200 or so to change the title, registration, and license. My office is 1 mile from my apartment. WHERE THE FUCK IS MY JETPACK.

Slightly tangential, but I was surprised to find out yesterday (when discussing a possible office move in a staff meeting) that of our 60-odd DC employees, only about five actually drive to work. And my office is not filled with particularly crunchy environmentalist types!

<3 you, Metro, you fucking unreliable useless piece of shit.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@stuffisthings the red line, tho…Double “fucking unreliable useless piece of shit.”!

@LookUponMyWorks I kind of miss being a Metro commuter though. You could just stroll in 45 minutes late and be like, “Red Line, sorry.”

Now my “running late” emails are all “oops I hit snooze too many times, see you at 9:15!”

charmcity (#1,091)

@stuffisthings Haha I actually moved from a Red Line commute to a driving commute. HATE driving, miss my New Yorker time, but do not miss the fucking deathtrap that is the Union Station platform at rush hour at least twice a week.

Ellie (#62)

This may be an idiotic question but I’m not understanding why someone would “go into credit card debt” in order to park at work. If your job literally causes you to incur debt, it makes zero financial sense to remain in it. The moment at which you’re actually paying more money to work than to not work is the moment when you should have quit the job yesterday, and find a new job. (Exceptions would be if it were a truly temporary situation, like for a month or less, or if your financial situation would be guaranteed to be much better after doing this for a short period of time – in the same manner as an unpaid internship, residency, professional degree, etc.) So maybe this is written hyperbolically and the writer does not actually expect to wait eight months? I am very confused otherwise.

cjm (#3,397)

@Ellie Imagine for example that you make $2,000 a month after taxes. You spend $1000 a month on rent, $350 a month on food, $250 a month on other bills/ utilities, $200 a month on student loan payments, and $150 a month on gas and parking. You get a new job, and get a $50 a month raise! Hurray. But now, your parking/gas will cost $300 a month. Therefore, you therefore have a deficit of $100 a month. It is not better to quit your job, and have a deficit of $1,750 a month. It is better to keep your job. It is BEST to decrease expenses to have no deficit, but a job paying 95% of expenses is better than a no job, paying 0% of expenses.

Ellie (#62)

@cjm OK, that makes sense. I wasn’t really thinking about the circumstance of not being able to cover expenses before finding a different job which was extremely short sighted of me. The deficit can add up pretty quickly though – at least best to start looking for a new job ASAP before too much of a deficit accrues? Unless you are looking at a very significant promotion in a short period of time, I wouldn’t consider this a tenable position. Unfortunately given the unpredictable nature of the job search, it’s not so likely that you would be able to predict the exact point at which it would be more economical to direct your time and money to job searching over paying for parking!

KittyConner (#3,108)

And how are you enjoying Indianapolis? I assume we must work at the same place.

Seriously, I work on a campus originally DESIGNED for car-commuters, in a city designed almost solely for cars and yet because of scarce parking (or something?)pay over $60/month to park in a garage that isn’t even that close to my office.

I just did the math and given my length of employment and NOT including any days where I paid a daily rate to park closer/forgot my garage pass, I’ve paid over $8k in parking fees. Jeebus.

amyfrances (#1,522)

I totaled my car two weeks ago and it’s probably one of the better things that’s ever happened to me.

limenotapple (#1,748)

Ugh this sounds like St. Louis. I would LOVE to use mass transit here but if you don’t go to a very specific area from a very specific area, good luck to ya.

athens_baby (#2,527)

I’m not in entirely the same situation, but I have to pay a LOT to commute into work every month ($600+). My employer covers $1000 a *year* so I have to shell out over $7000 to get to my job! Wow, I just did the math and realized how utterly screwed up that is. I am looking for another job for a million reasons, this included. Ugh.

(edited for grammar fixes!)

jquick (#3,730)

@athens_baby Wha? More info please. Do you fly from home to work in another city?

uclastaffer (#5,311)

I was going to chime in to say that UCLA has a bunch of subsidized alternatives to offer (including 50% discounted transit passes), but now I’m thinking this isn’t UCLA. The cheapest parking permit here is $852/year, much more than $480!

ECW (#2,765)

Its got to be Georgia Tech. Its got to. And I am soooo sorry because if it is, she has like, no options.

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