It’s no secret parking at Highline College can get a little hectic.
With only 2,283 parking spots and more than double that number of students enrolled each quarter, getting to campus an hour early is sometimes just enough time to snag a spot before class starts.
But, after a unanimous vote by the Associated Students of Highline College in June, funding will soon be available to expand Highline’s parking space.
Starting fall 2019, students will pay a $20 Transportation and Safety Fee each quarter that will go toward maintaining and expanding parking lots, hiring Public Safety personnel and creating a better alternative transportation incentive program.
“We understand students will be paying slightly more,” Highline College President John Mosby said, “but we’re excited for the opportunity this creates to improve our infrastructure and help relieve parking woes for future students to come.”
The fee will be added to tuition for most students. However, those who take classes through Central Washington University – Des Moines, Kaplan International English, Continuing Education or the Adult Basic Education (ABE) /English as a Second Language (ESL) program will pay the fee when they purchase their quarterly parking permit.
Public Safety estimates the fee will generate approximately $700,000 each year.
A Transportation and Safety Fee Revenue committee will then be established to determine how the funds are spent. The committee will be made up of representatives from Public Safety, Facilities and Operations, and the student body government.
“One of the first responsibilities of the Transportation and Safety Fee committee will be to create a charter that expresses the functions and operations the tuition fee will support,” said Associate Director of Public Safety and Emergency Management Francesca Fender. “The committee will want to ensure that the stewardship of these funds will improve the transportation access and overall safety for the entire college community.”
State law requires college parking projects to be self-funded, meaning “parking must generate revenue to pay for the costs of parking on campus, including parking maintenance,” according to fee proposal documents. This means money to pay for these improvements cannot come from capital or operational funding.
Yet more funding is greatly needed.
Not only does Highline have a current parking shortage, but Sound Transit’s Federal Way Link Extension project, scheduled to open in 2024, will affect Highline in more ways than one.
Although students will be able to enjoy link light rail from Seattle to Federal Way when the project is complete, parking may get worse before it gets better. That’s because College Way, the road next to Campus View apartments that leads into the East Parking Lot, will become the main entrance to campus, connecting a Kent/Des Moines link light rail station to the college. However, the entrance will become a roundabout on the north side of the East Parking Lot, eliminating several rows of parking spaces.
To negate some of the impact, Public Safety has proposed plans to add two more rows of parking by removing some landscaping in the lot for a net gain of 80 parking spots.
They also hope to add 50 more parking spots by paving a gravel lot, currently being used by construction workers, near the sports field, and building a road that connects that lot to the South Parking Lot. Additional parking spots may be added along that road as well.
If approved by the committee, about 25 more security cameras will also be added to campus to prevent crime and aid in investigations, for a total of 50 cameras.
The funds would also be used to update parking text and lines, which have “become damaged to the point of being illegible, and students park in restricted areas due to indistinct symbols and markers,” according to fee proposal documents.
And with about 80% of Public Safety staffed to full capacity, there will be enough funds to pay for one part-time and two full-time Public Safety officers.
With the hope of improving parking and safety on campus, funds will also be available to improve the emergency communication system by adding “visual indicators” that would alert community members entering campus when there is a dangerous situation, such as icy road conditions.
Even with proposed parking improvements and more public safety measures in place, there’s still a limited amount of space on campus and, if the Transportation and Safety Fee Revenue Committee approves it, a more robust alternative transportation incentive program could be established. By providing $150 pre-paid bus cards for up to 200 students each quarter, the college could work toward its core theme of sustainability for an annual cost of $100,000. Students who participate in the proposed bus card program would not have to pay for a parking permit.
Currently, Public Safety offers a $60 Highline College Bookstore gift card when a student has brought in $60 worth of bus or transit receipts. Unfortunately, only 51 students participated last fall and the reimbursement incentive has not reduced the number of students driving to campus.
For more information on the Transportation and Safety Fee, contact Francesca Fender, Associate Director of Public Safety and Emergency Management.