Protesters say parking strike effective

Claim 80% of garage users boycotted West Garage

THEY WERE OUT HOLDING SIGNS reading, “Monopoly, UMass Boston Edition,” and “You’re Driving Us Out.” The students, faculty, and staff of UMass Boston spent Wednesday outside the new on-campus West Garage urging drivers to boycott parking there for a day.

The “parking strike,” where protesters flagged down drivers, explained their concerns, and urged them to park off-campus or take public transport, was a response to the change in all-day parking rates at on-campus garages from $6 to $15 a day.

Anneta Argyres, director of the university’s Labor Extension Program, said the protest was about creating awareness. She said the garage has 1,400 spots and estimated fewer than 250 people parked there on Wednesday.

“We were able to get 80 percent of the students and employees who usually park there to boycott,” she said, suggesting university financial losses could run into the thousands of dollars.

University officials didn’t respond to a request for parking revenue numbers, and instead provided a statement from Kathleen Kirleis, UMass Boston’s vice chancellor for administration & finance.

She defended the parking rate increase. “A new parking rate structure was required to cover the costs associated with all of our parking facilities, whose rates have remained unchanged since 2004,” Kirleis said. “The alternative was to continue subsidizing parking fees with tuition funds diverted from programs, faculty hiring, student financial aid, and other priority areas.”

In memos to staff and students, administration officials have said the higher parking 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.

Alison Moll, who works for the sociology department as a part-time employee, told protesters at a noon rally that the shuttle buses operate too slowly. “That shuttle bus makes me late to pick up my kid,” she said. “It makes students late to their classes. It makes lower-income students late to the jobs they have in their everyday lives.”

Moll mentioned that many students take classes three days a week. For students who park on-campus, the increase in parking rates from $6 to $15 adds up to $45 a week, $180 a month, and $1,260 over the course of seven months.

The new $15 rates are for anyone who parks longer than three hours. For those who stay less than three hours, the rates are $7 for one hour, $9 for two hours, and $11 for three hours.

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.

The university suggested students purchase passes that offer a volume discount — $360 for 30 single uses, or $12 per day at the on-campus lots.

Students have expressed concerns about large upfront costs associated with the semester passes, but Kirleis said the university is offering significant discounts for those who park frequently or are at the low end of the pay scale. The savings are accessible with the purchase of a long-term pass.