VIDEO: SLAP Protests Proposed Annual Parking Fee

SLAP Parking Fees March from The Daily Gazette on Vimeo.

A yes vote this week by the Swarthmore College Parking and Transportation Master Plan Advisory Committee could recommend a plan to levy a $30 parking fee, suggested by a planning firm retained last spring. The fee, which would have to be paid by most drivers to park in campus parking lots, is part of a larger Parking and Transportation Master Plan, a draft of which was presented last Wednesday in the Scheuer Room.

The proposed fee has frustrated members of the Student Labor Action Project, SLAP, which advocates for workers’ rights on campus. Ben Wolcott ’14, a senior in SLAP, said he has spoken to staff members who were none too pleased either.

However, the fee’s week is this week, and if the college sticks to one proposed timeline, it could be levied as soon as this spring, gates and all.

So members of SLAP wrote a last-minute letter to Vice President Stu Hain, who heads the Facilities and Services Department and sits on the Parking and Transportation Committee. They marched down to his office on Tuesday afternoon, where they read the letter to a staffer, and left a copy for Hain.

Their letter, which is read aloud in the above video, has been reprinted below:

Dear Vice President Hain,

We are here today in solidarity with staff and faculty who have not had enough time to discuss and give feedback about the new Parking and Transportation Master Plan. Needless to say, many people that we have talked to feel deeply frustrated. We attempted to bring up our concerns with the student representative on the committee, Jennifer Walsh, but were shocked to realize that she is not even on campus this semester. We have two primary concerns:

First, nickel and diming staff and faculty is unfitting for a progressive community.  No one should have to pay their employer to work. While $30 may seem insignificant to some, it will affect the staff who are already struggling to get by in an economy that is not working for them. Others see the price increase and further changes as an attack on our community’s social fabric. Also, will you guarantee that the permit price will not increase? Given its seemingly arbitrary amount, many worry that this $30 price tag is only the start of substantial increases further down the line.

Second, the consensus-building process for this proposal did not meaningfully engage the community. Only allowing staff, faculty and students one week to give feedback is inappropriate. Some have not even had a week. For example, no one has told Sharples staff let alone asked for their input.

Especially considering the uncertainty after SEPTA’s recent announcement that they may stop running the Media/Elwyn line, tomorrow seems like the wrong time to make long-term planning decisions about parking and transportation.

We know that your working group of mostly powerful senior staff has received significant feedback, and we encourage you to publish it in order to facilitate transparency. Our community has not reached consensus.

Sincerely,

The Swarthmore Labor Action Project


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2 comments

  1. 0
    Stuart Hain ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Editors,

    I’m sorry I missed the students when they came by. Had I been able to meet them, I would have said that I share their interest in making sure that the College is a safe and equitable place for everyone who lives and works here. I also would have sought to clarify the following:

    The parking and transportation study is a direct result of the sustainability concerns raised by students, faculty, and staff last year who did not want us to build additional parking structures without better understanding our actual needs. We heard those concerns loud and clear (and in fact share them) and took them to heart in putting together the PROPOSAL we shared with the community last week.

    We are committed to implementing as sustainable a parking and transportation program as we can – one that does not, for example, rely on new parking structures built on existing green space.

    To do this, we need to better understand our parking demand. Our current permit system does not provide reliable information about demand and therefore needs to be revamped. While the PROPOSED fee will not cover the entire cost of installing a new permit system (including the database it will require and the permits themselves), it will mean that we don’t have to move funds from existing programs to do it. We won’t be able to explore zip cars or other options, or even identify cars that do not belong to members of the community, until we have that data.

    In addition, students currently pay $30 per year to park on campus, while faculty and staff do not. The committee considered this an equity issue. With that said, the fee is a proposal under consideration and if there is strong community resistance to it, we will certainly take that under advisement as we move forward.

    We realize we are moving quickly, in order to collect the data this spring and then use it to inform our plans for the College’s future. Anything that is decided, and that is still a very open question, will be implemented in phases.

    I believe we all share a commitment to sustainability. However, there are real costs associated with becoming more green and we need to be mindful of that when we make these careful choices. If we decide to move forward with a permit fee, we will certainly explore ways to help those for whom this would be a burden and welcome your suggestions. Please direct them to campusplan@swarthmore.edu or post them to the Campus Master Plan website [http://cmp.swarthmore.edu/project-progress/] which contains additional information.

    Sincerely,

    Stu Hain

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