Marlene Kim and a few others have very generously listened to my concerns about our union’s demands that UMass students and programs subsidize faculty to drive their cars to campus. I think this is bad policy on social justice, community impact and environmental grounds. My concerns are threefold:
- Parking places, lots and decks cost money to build and maintain. If the users of parking do not pay all of the costs, money MUST be taken from other places in the university to subsidize cheaper parking.
- People who can afford to own and drive cars in the Boston area are, on average, considerably higher income than most of those who do not own cars. I very much agree with the union’s push to make parking fees scaled by income, so as to be more progressive. This is progress! But we cannot lose sight of the fact that subsidizing driving to make it cheaper than many people pay to take public transportation – which is the case now, in many circumstances – is NOT progressive policy.
- Driving has many negative environmental and community impacts — locally and globally. Many major employers all over the Boston area (public and private) are trying to incentivize their employees to drive less and take more public transport. This, in my view, also should be our goal. Unions at UMass Boston seem determined to demand exactly opposite.
I urge my FSU colleagues to approach this issue with a mind to compromise – and to encourage other unions to do so too. FSU and the other unions were successful in making UMass propose a more progressive, income-based parking fee structure. THIS IS PROGRESS! If there are some reasonably small things that can be changed to (at least partially) address some of the important issues in Bonnie’s email below, that would be great too. But I would urge my colleagues to see that the currently proposed fees scaled by income are much better than the original flat rates – and to see that our goal simply cannot be and should not be to subsidize driving cars to campus by keeping it as cheap as possible.
Finally, I do realize these views are not going to be terribly popular – most especially with my colleagues who regularly drive to campus. This is, in my view, another reason to seek compromise and settle on a noticeable and predictable parking fee increase that is scaled according income, and is as least impactful to those in lower income categories as possible. This is a much different posture than chanting “No parking increase ever!” and handing out “no fee increase” flyers to students as they step off the shuttle bus from the T stop.
Stacy D VanDeveer
Professor, Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance