Image Description: The words “Pay-As-You-Go Parking, student public forum” are imposed on top of a blue background. On the right, there’s three cars, two yellow, with the middle, red car pulling out of the parking bay. The UWA Student Guild logo is in the bottom right corner.
Correction: Originally the article stated that the National Teachers Union was in presence, however it actually was the National Tertiary Education Union. We apologise for this error.
By Courtney Withers
UWA is considering removing parking permits after semester one this year and it has caused quite the stir of emotions, to say the least.
The initial decision was first announced by the University on their website and was immediately the talk of the ‘UWA town’.
The UWA Student Guild decided to host a ‘PAYG Parking Student Forum’ in response to the change on March 5.
The purpose of the forum was to give students the opportunity to voice their concerns and opinions on the topic of pay-as-you-go parking, so that the Student Guild can shape their response campaign to the said change, ‘Pay and We Go!’.
As stated on the UWA Student Guild’s event, they planned to discuss and hear feedback on “the university’s decision to replace the parking permit system with pay-as-you-go parking”.
The Guild has also stated that they will be hosting more of these student forums throughout the year to discuss and hear feedback from students.
Like many others, I’m sure you’re very much itching to know what was discussed at the forum and what the outcome of the event was, so I’ll dive right in (this is going to be a long one — so grab some popcorn!).
The main concern, brought up by many of the students, came down to one thing; is this change of not being able to purchase parking permits for semester two a negotiable thing, or will the University actually go through with it?
University Chief Operating Officer, Robert Webster, spoke on the issue of pay-as-you-go-parking at the forum and gave students the opportunity to ask specific questions or voice their own concerns.
Mr. Webster spoke briefly about the history of his position and his involvement at the University and then went straight into addressing the concerns about parking at UWA.
“We are going through a process at the moment of looking at the way parking is managed on campus — and the very specific irritations around what it is we are looking at,” Mr. Webster said.
“The paint is not dry on what it is we are going to propose in the next couple of weeks.”
Mr. Webster explained that the plans are not set in stone and that comments from forums, such as the one held on March 5, will be all be used in the development of the proposal in a “consultation process”.
The position of the University is that they are seeking to automate the parking — as we all know — from the previous permit-based parking, that currently has a limit on how many parking permits can be sold to both staff and students.
“The proposal is about how is it we move from a system which charges you once price for one slot of service, regardless of how much of that service you use; to one which allows you to control how much of the service you use.”
Mr. Webster explained that the new proposal is seeking to develop an App based system which students can download, which will register and track the time in said parking bay.
He said when using the App, if you are parked for a whole day, you will be charged for a whole day. The logic behind this is that with the App, if you are only wanting to come into uni for half a day, you will only be charged for that amount; instead of paying the $90 for a semester, regardless of how little or often the permit is used.
“There is, at this stage, no proposal to take it beyond that. That is what the limitations will be now… however, the paint’s not dry yet,” Mr. Webster said.
There will be changes as a user of how you can park on campus, however Mr. Webster said there “won’t be changes in how much you pay” and there is no proposal at the moment to increase the cost of parking.
However, that isn’t to say that this couldn’t change in the future.
Mr. Webster said that the maximum per day would roughly be $2 based off active days per semester, which is what the current amount per day is.
This does beg me to ask the question that if the new automated system is going to cost staff and students the exact same amount of money, why go through the hassle and expense of changing the current parking system?
The proposal at the moment is purely to move to an automated system, that will be enforced to staff, students and the public, and Mr. Webster was clear in emphasising this.
Under the proposed system, they will not be changing parking policy, they’re changing parking administration. This means that both postcode and credit point restrictions will not be altered under this plan.
This also means that hours, operative times, dates and the number of students in the system won’t change.
The discussion then moved into student questions and Mr. Webster responded to each respective question.
One question asked was about the fact that some students spend considerably more time on campus than others, medical students for example, which would make their expenses of parking extremely expensive.
Webster noted the point being made about some students having to spend more than others and recognised it is an issue but said there is no current plan to limit spending.
“The consultation process is all about bringing issues forward, so we can chat about it and then think about what it is we’re going to do,” Mr. Webster said.
Other questions raised included whether there will be more public transport options available, whether there are plans for students that are here for extended period of the year, what the maximum per day will be and whether this will incentivise not coming to campus and lower the quality of degrees.
Mr. Webster continued to state that the proposal is very much in a state of consultation and development and nothing has been set in stone.
“[It’s a] consultation of viewpoints… not everyone can be accommodated.”
Mr. Webster said that they need to consult across all groups of UWA and that it will be a process of collaboration.
When asked whether this will incentivise not coming to campus and lower the quality of degrees, Mr. Webster said that this will be seen as “on the agenda” and “is something to talk about”.
Students also questioned that if majority of students and staff were completely against the proposed idea, whether they would reconsider the change.
“If consultation proves it’s a bad idea, then yes,” Mr. Webster said .
Another issued raised through questioning was whether there would be changes to staff parking and the relationship with Wilson Parking.
Mr. Webster stated that currently “There is no formal relationship with Wilson”, however then went on to explain that there is an “informal relationship”.
If the relationship does moves to being more “formal” as it were, this would privatise the parking situation. However, this is once again something that would need to be brought up in the consultation period.
A representative from the National Tertiary Education Union also spoke at the forum and asked the question, “There is a trust deficit between the staff, the students and senior management… do you understand why that exists?”.
The representative spoke about the fact that with the recent change to public holidays and students not having to come into class, staff objected because of the disruption to teaching plans, especially in semester one. He explained that there were over 600 staff who explained to senior management why they believed was a bad idea, to which all proposals were ignored .
The NTEU representative also stated that the proposed change would mean that under the parking App and availability of parking bays on campus, staff would have to fight students for a parking spot, due to there being no separation of red and yellow bays. They reaffirmed that the NTEU was against this.
Mr. Webster acknowledged that there definitely is a deficit of trust and stated that he wanted to change the way the organisation worked.
Overall, Mr. Webster said that the University is very much open to hearing student feedback and suggestions.
“I would support your right to oppose it,” Mr. Webster said.
“We need to actively engage in a different way of decision making.”
So where does this leave us? That’s a good question. Nothing is set in stone at the moment and the University have stated that they are in a process of collaboration. To have your input into The Guild’s response to the issue, you can email [email protected].
Courtney is reconsidering owning a car.
Image courtesy of UWA Student Guild.