DESPITE the full operation of the UST multi-deck car park, parking woes appear to have continued on campus. Worse, student car owners accuse the administration of “anti-student” parking policies.

The Thomasian Student Drivers Organization (THOSDA), together with the Central Student Council, filed a complaint last semester to former vice-rector for finance Fr. Melchor Saria O.P. against the parking policies of the University. The unresolved complaint says that the parking policies are “anti-student.”

“We are petitioning for a flat rate on the car park for students and the reduction on the price for students’ car sticker,” Christer Gaudiano, president of THOSDA, told the Varsitarian. “But the Office for Student Affairs advised us that our organization is yet to be recognized.”

The complaint, filed last July, is not being resolved because THOSDA said the Office for Student Affairs has not recognized it as a student organization.

Car park at a cost?

Contrary to what Thomasians might think, the three-deck car park with its 600 parking slots is owned and operated by Selegna Holdings Inc. and not by UST.

The car park is under a build-operate-transfer agreement which states that the ownership of the car park will be transferred to the University in 10 to 15 years.

The car park offers special rates and discounts for students that can be availed on two conditions.

“The rates are being offered from 12 noon onwards for vehicles being driven by students,” JP Cabrera, operations manager of the car park, said.

The car park charges students P20 for the first five hours and P10 for every hour after that. Ordinary rates however will be charged to students who will enter the car park before 12 noon. The car park ordinarily charges P25 for the first two hours and P10 for every succeeding hour.

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The car park follows a different scheme for night parking.

Night rates are charged with a flat rate of P30 from 6 p.m. to 12 midnight, and an additional P10 for the succeeding hours beyond 12 midnight.

Overnight parking charges a flat rate of P60 from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and P10 for every succeeding hour.

If the student arrives at 7 a.m. and leaves the car park at 9 p.m., the policy for the ordinary rates will be followed.

“In the average, 1,800 cars enter the car park everyday, 25 to 30 per cent of which are students,” Cabrera said.

Since its opening in September 2004 until December 2006, the management said that some 850,000 cars have availed of its services.

Least priority

But there is still clamor for more parking spaces due to the construction of the Plaza Mayor and the Quadricentennial Park, which were former parking areas.

Added to this is the total parking ban along Osmeña Drive.

“We forfeited the parking spaces in Osmeña Drive for safety reasons,” said University Security head Clemente Dingayan. “We are afraid that cars parked at this area could be hit by footballs from the field.”

Aside from the Osmeña Drive, students are now prohibited to park in front of the Miguel de Benavides Library.

“The changes in the parking measures are in line with the preparations for the Quadricentennial celebration in 2011. The University aims for a pedestrian-friendly campus on its 400th year,” Mr. Roberto Evangelista, officer-in-charge for the traffic and parking management, said.

But students question why faculty members are prioritized over students when it comes to parking slots.

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“If we will not prioritize the faculty members for their parking spaces, it is possible that they will arrive late in their classes and students may leave their classes assuming that their professor is absent,” said Evangelista, “This is actually a disadvantage for the students since they are not getting their tuition’s worth.”

All in all, there are only 196 free parking slots for the students in the entire University.

Thomasian drivers rage over the seemingly expensive parking rates in the car park. They are most of the time compelled to park outside the University (see related article below).

“We usually spend an average of P100 to P275 rates for parking everyday,” Gaudiano said.

Cabrera, however, claimed that the parking rates were adapted from the old two-story parking before it was replaced by the new car park in 2004.

“Owning a vehicle entails responsibility,” Evangelista said. “Thomasian drivers should be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of parking outside the University.”

THOSDA is also complaining about the discrepancies in the policies in purchasing car stickers implemented for students, employees and faculty.

The car sticker for students costs P300 for the first issuance and P600 for succeeding stickers. Employees and faculty members, however, follow a different price system. The traffic and parking management charges P100 each sticker for employees, regardless of how many they will purchase, while faculty members get car stickers for free.

“Because of the color-coding scheme implemented by MMDA, we have already foreseen students purchasing two or more stickers so they could do away with the traffic rule,” said Evangelista. “We believe that such policy may discourage students from applying for a second sticker and simply abide by the rules set by the MMDA.”

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Regarding the discrepancy in rates, Evangelista explained that, “the faculty members and employees’ privilege to the rates of their car stickers is indicated on their Collective Bargaining Agreement as employees of the University.”

According to Evangelista, the proceeds of the stickers go to the maintenance of the roads and the road signs within the University. Any surplus is added to the scholarship funds of UST.

THOSDA lobbies for a parking holiday and student representation during committee meetings on parking and traffic issues.

The proposed parking holiday, according to Gaudiano, would be on Saturdays during which the students can park even on other parking slots designated for employees and faculty members.

“Out of the 40,000 enrolled Thomasians, only about 3,500 students availed of the car sticker. That means, we are simply catering to the elite few and not for the majority of the students,” Evangelista said. “Besides, most of these students do not necessarily park their cars and are only brought to school by their parents.”

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