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.


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