Parking ‘strike’ called at UMass Boston

Faculty, students, staff protest hike from $6 to $15 a day

STUDENTS, STAFF, AND FACULTY at UMass Boston say they plan to hold a “parking strike” on Wednesday, urging people not to park at campus garages and lots where charges have increased from $6 to $15 a day.

“Our administration talks about their commitment to urban mission, but I can’t see it on a $15-a-day parking fee. Students I’ve talked to are just baffled,” said Jeffrey Melnick, a graduate program director in American studies and a member of the UMass Faculty Staff Union. “We have students who are homeless, have food security issues. These are Boston working class students. To imagine they’re taking three-day-a-week classes and paying that.”

The students and faculty say the higher rates are being used to offset the cost of debt associated with the construction of a new $69.3 million eight-level parking garage that opened in September 2018. The university says the higher rates are needed to cover the garage’s operating costs. On-campus parking rates have jumped from $6 to $15 a day (or $10 after 4 p.m. weekdays and on weekends), while off-campus parking at the nearby UMass-owned Bayside lot increased $3 to $9.

The strike is focused on the $15 rates at West Garage, Lot D, and the Campus Center Garage. The picket will take place outside of West Garage beginning at 7 a.m. and continue to 5 p.m.

Nei M, a junior exercise and health sciences major who drives to school, said the parking rate increase runs counter to the school’s mission. “This is one of the things as a mostly commuter school I believe shouldn’t be this high,” she said.

Administration officials says the higher rates are needed to cover the cost of operating the new garage. Officials have reminded the school’s 16,000 students the shuttle service between the JFK/UMass Red Line station and campus remains free, and costs the university a little over $5 million annually.

For those students who drive, the university is encouraging them to purchase passes that offer a volume discount — $360 for 30 single uses, or $12 per day at the on-campus lots.

Some students complain the university has done away with multi-use passes in smaller-time allotments – say for five days instead of 30 days, bringing the up-front cost down.

Graduate student Juan Blanco travels from Worcester to campus and to his three jobs and can’t afford the $30 per day commuter rail option. So he drives. He says the new fees are impacting his ability to pay his bills and help his elderly parents with theirs.

Instead of parking in any of the UMass lots, Blanco said he’s started parking in a nearby neighborhood and walking 25 minutes to school, adding about an hour to his commute.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

For doctoral student Elizabeth Morrow, 37, who has a chronic health condition, the new parking rates create unique difficulties. “It is completely illogical for me to pay $15 to park in the new garage when it’s not more convenient to a person with accessibility issues than parking in Bayside,” Morrow said.  As a grad student employee, she only makes $17,000 a year and says the cost of attending UMass Boston has risen substantially faster than her student wages. The higher parking costs are another addition to her bills.

“The fact that the university has decided to service its debt on the backs of lower-income students and has seemingly failed to meet its legal obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act – makes me wonder if there is an attorney in the city who would like to speak with us,” she said.