Editorial: Parking problems

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Students meander down the Hill and crawl back up on their way to class, meals and meetings. The steep incline is a reminder that the campus takes your breath away both because of its beauty and its slope. On a campus that is built into the side of a mountain, a car is the easiest way to get around.

Having a car on campus requires a permit, which can be purchased from Parking Services at the beginning of each semester. Parking Services issued 3,174 permits this semester. With that permit, a student may only park the car in the designated lot for the specific permit. If a student happens to park anywhere at the wrong time or in the wrong place, the student is given a fine that can be higher than the clock tower on the University Center. Parking anywhere other than the assigned spot requires paying a meter or getting a ticket.

The cost of parking passes and tickets are unnecessarily high. Lehigh University does not have its hands tied with these things — it has the power to lower the cost, reduce the frequency of tickets and reduce the financial burden of having a car on campus.

A permit for Lehigh is $400 per year — this is significantly more expensive than the $50 it costs per year to park in Bethlehem. Lehigh’s campus is private property, so Lehigh has the power to dictate pass prices. The difference between parking on campus or at an off-campus house a street over is $350.

“The revenue generated from permit sales and parking fines goes directly to fund parking lot and garage maintenance, and the enhancement of parking services,” Brett Johnson, the assistant manager of Parking Services, wrote in an email.

Although campus maintenance is necessary, it doesn’t need to be funded through expensive parking passes and tickets.

In addition to the price of the parking pass, tickets are issued regularly for anyone not parked in the correct lot at the correct time. Parking Services ensures parking laws are enforced at all hours of the day, even if a flashlight is necessary to read the license plates because the sun went down hours ago.

Johnson said the price of parking fines at Lehigh are similar to those at other institutions. These fines start at $25 and increase exponentially, depending on the offense. Some tickets are as much as $175. While these ticket prices may be similar to other institutions, they are far more expensive than the $10 tickets issued by Bethlehem. In Bethlehem, a driver is fined $10 for an expired meter or parking in an incorrect meter zone. On Lehigh’s campus, a driver is fined $25 for the same infraction.

The prices of Lehigh parking tickets appear to be arbitrary, even if they loosely are based on the prices at other schools. Students can appeal their ticket, and this sometimes leads to a reduction in its cost. An appeals committee decides whether these appeals are granted or rejected, and the reduction in price of tickets also seems arbitrarily decided.

According to an article in The Brown and White last semester, 23 percent of parking tickets were appealed and 60 percent of parking appeals were granted last year. This is a high percentage of appeals granted, and it suggests either the parking tickets should not have been issued in the first place, or the tickets were issued based on a justified reason and then the committee randomly decided to erase the tickets.

Students will bring their cars to campus next semester and pay the required $200 to park it because a car is a convenient, safe way to navigate campus.

The excessive fines and expensive parking passes add an unnecessary monetary layer to the cost of Lehigh, and the university should use its power to match the parking prices in Bethlehem.

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3 Comments

  1. Bruce Haines '67 on

    Perhaps the climate change millennials should not have cars on campus & walk up & down the hill like our generation did–not even buses then. Seems like students have a double standard on climate change when it applies to their convenience but want to shut down power plants, pipelines & manufacturing that brings energy to produce goods they want.

  2. What you need to understand is that Lehigh is a money grubbing enterprise that seeks to raise funds wherever it can in order to pay for a bloated administrative bureaucracy, no end of utterly useless “support” offices, and a lazy professoriate that gets offended if a professor is asked to teach more than one class a year. Even worse, a professor can then get a sabbatical every 5 years or so where he can, if he so chooses, do absolutely nothing while getting fully paid.

    It is instructive to perform an exercise to see how much costs have risen over the decades.

    Looking back in the Brown and White archives to September 20, 1957, one can see where the tuition PER YEAR was $900, and was being increased to $1,000 starting in 1958. In addition engineering students would have a fee of an extra $100.

    The cost of a room in the freshman dorms was $150 per semester, or $300 per year.

    Certainly, there has been a lot of inflation since 1958. Using consumer price index tables one can derive an inflation increase factor between then and now of 8.364.

    Apply this to the tuition and fee for an engineering education yields a 2016 cost of $9,200.

    Today, Lehigh charges $48,320 for tuition and technology fee.

    That is 5.25 times HIGHER than what one would expect simply looking at inflation.

    Applying the inflation factor for the cost of a crummy room in Richards house yields a present day cost of $2,500 for the year.

    Lehigh charges $7,850 which is a factor of 3.13 times what one would expect based on inflation.

    So why does it surprise you that Lehigh charges an exorbitant amount for parking fees and fines?

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