Val Peterson is a busy man. I’m unannounced and uninvited, occupying the only free fifteen minutes he has today.

“So,” Peterson said, “you think there’s a problem with parking?”

“No,” I tell him, “but everyone else seems to think so. I just park and keep my mouth shut.” What I don’t tell him is I’m one of many I see every morning who are inclined to park off campus and endure a 10 minute walk to class to avoid the fee and the fight.

The truth is that students don’t have it as bad as they think. Val Peterson is the Vice President of Administrative and Legislative Affairs and oversees campus parking as one of his responsibilities, and he’s all too happy to print off some statistics.

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The most expensive parking pass goes for $80, a no-holds-barred extravaganza offering two semesters’ worth of parking in prime spots. Students at the U pay $125 for the same benefits and at Utah State they’re forking over an outrageous $182. Among our sister institutions, Salt Lake Community College is the only one that has a cheaper A-list parking pass, ringing in at $30.

We offer three parking options and are the only school that has free parking. We even offer a shuttle that passes by every 10 to 15 minutes to ferry students to and from campus.

A new parking master plan includes three proposed parking structures. The setback is that a raised parking structure, like the ones planned, costs about $15 million. A recent survey on campus showed that students were not willing to pay an additional $50 to cover the cost. Since the school has yet to pay off the last parking lots built, the master plan is a vision for the not-too-near future.

Administration isn’t in much of a hurry though. A weekly count, held at peak hours, shows over 850 empty stalls.
Still, some students refer to the parking pass as a “hunting permit” for the daily pursuit of the elusive open stall. “Places are available as long as students are willing to make a short 10 minute walk.” Peterson says. I think back to my truck parked 10 minutes away, free of charge.

Of course, the parking fee doesn’t just cover the cost of the stall; many other utilities are offered. Unlocking doors and jump-starting cars are daily responsibilities for employees of parking services. Permit fees pay for the clearing of ice and snow. The lines here begin to blur as the fees also go to pay for the clearing of ice and snow from sidewalks — a benefit that the parking-stall poachers, such as myself, and the ever-aware and eco-friendly bus crowd  enjoy even without paying for it.

“Do you think there’s a problem with parking, Val?” I asked.

“The only problem with parking is that every student wants the stall right next to class,” Peterson answered.

“How do you feel about valet parking?” I asked.

He laughs; he thinks I’m kidding,

Parking won’t be changing anytime soon; the daily hunt will persist. Until the administration stops laughing, we’ll keep walking. Happy trails.