Chico State parking is expensive, unreliable and out of touch


Students are fed up with the situation for parking in the spaces available at Chico State. Photo credit: Melissa Joseph

Here we go again – it’s fall, another round of parking permits have been sold, and students are once again battling for parking spots every morning. It seems redundant at this point to say it, but it’s still true – parking at Chico State is a nightmare with no solution in sight.

Except this time, there’s even fewer parking spaces than before.

At the beginning of the semester, President Gayle Hutchinson emailed to let students know that more General (G permit) spaces would be turned into R 1-3 permit spaces for faculty and staff, including critical spaces in the parking garage on Cherry and West Second Street. There are more spaces for General permits, the university said, but asked where they could be found, they seem to be located further away from campus then before.

Meanwhile, more garage spaces are prioritized for faculty.

It’s no secret that parking at Chico State is a war and has been for years. It’s standard to sell more parking permits than there are parking spaces, and the mad dash to get parking spaces every morning is notorious for being nearly impossible.

This change took away more parking spaces in the parking garages next to campus from students who buy them every semester. And sure enough, at the beginning of the semester, the parking garage had many reserved spaces left empty. This included the ramp where many students used to park but are now restricted from using.

To put into context the deep, building frustration this situation causes in myself and many other students, I think a personal story would help.

My first week at Chico State was a trial in itself. I learned that in order to find parking, you couldn’t show up at 9 a.m., as alumni told me. There were absolutely no spaces left in either of the garages or the overflow parking lot by the train track. I learned that you have to get to campus before 8:30 a.m. to have a chance at finding a space anywhere – and if you have to leave and come back at any time of day, you probably won’t be able to find another one when you return.

It got even worse during my second semester, when I found myself forced to get to campus before 8 a.m. every day. I was left sitting on campus for nearly four hours every day waiting for my noon class, in order to keep my spot – because if I waited until 8:30 a.m., all of the spots would be gone. There’s no way you can find parking between 9 a.m. and noon in college parking lots.

Adding to the irony, every time I would scour the garages for a space, I would have to drive through the bottom level where the R1to R2 spaces were, and see just how many were standing empty. What’s that about?

It was the same for my third semester – getting to campus by 8 a.m. was imperative to having a parking space for the day. You’re left stuck on campus all day if you have to drive to school, as I do due to living off of campus, and if you have classes at different times of the day.

That’s why, last spring, I boldly returned my parking pass. I got a job that required me to be at work in the mornings and my first class was at 10 a.m. – meaning that I would never be able to find parking between 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. It’s impossible.

However, I quickly discovered that if you scour the blocks around the college, there’s always spots to be found – you just have to walk at least five blocks to campus. But hey, at least I’m not paying for a parking pass that does nothing to help my chances.

I still struggle with the nightmare of parking, but I do it a few blocks further away from campus – and almost always find a free spot, even if I have to park eight or nine blocks away. Why spend the $120 when I can’t even get to campus before 8 a.m.?

I want to remind Wildcats that these requirements were the reality before the new parking situation. Chico State has taken away even more spaces that were previously assigned to G permit holders – making more R-1, R-2 and R-3 spaces than ever before. And what happened? These spaces routinely stand empty, as you can see in the photo here.

Empty, reserved spaces stand in the parking garage on Cherry Street. Photo credit: Trenton Taylor

Perhaps in response to this madness, President Gayle Hutchinson then made the exceedingly generous offer to give up about 70 R-3 permits to students, priced at a screamin’ deal of $197 – nearly 40% higher than the price of a general parking permit.

“Reserved R-3 permits are sold on a one-to-one ratio, so they offer a guaranteed spot in one of the R-3 lots (which are the Student Health Center lot and the Brice South gravel lot located off Warner Street between College Drive and Brice Avenue),” the email said.

The limited number of R-3 permits became available on a first come, first-serve basis starting last Thursday at 9 a.m. It seems safe to say they’re all sold out now.

Chico State, this is a Band-Aid on a deepening problem. The parking situation on campus has got to start prioritizing students. This isn’t only an issue that robs students of money for a permit that doesn’t guarantee them a parking space – it’s a safety issue. Many students, including myself, are left walking blocks and blocks to reach their faraway car or a bus stop, often at hours after dark once the summer daylight is gone. Campus Connection is there as a last resort, but they’re hard to get ahold of.

Asked what students should do if they’re left walking after dark, however, what did the head of University Housing, Connie Hyuck, say to one of my reporters? Not only did she not know what paths are more dangerous than others, she told students to take a Lyft or Uber (the most expensive way home) instead of walking, and then said: “I don’t know, I think everyone has to determine that for themselves, I think that students need to be aware of their surroundings and take the safest way home possible.”

Not only does the head of housing not know where a safe walking route is or mention Blue Light on campus – but they instead tell us to pay to take a taxi home instead of walking.

All of this demonstrates that Chico State is incredibly out of touch with the reality of student life. It’s time they stop slapping Band-Aids on a major issue and give more parking spaces to students, who are paying higher and higher tuition and fees to attend the college every year.

If you’re like me and you’re fed up, sell your parking permit back for a full refund by 5 p.m. Thursday. Otherwise, the refund will be on a pro-rated basis per the Chico State refund schedule. If you can park further away then walk or bike to campus any distance, try to do so instead of paying for these pointless parking permits. It might be the only resort we have to let the university know just how little these permits do, in the face of a parking crisis they can’t fix.

Update: Sean Murphy of University Communications said that the emails were written by the Vice President of Business and Finance, Anabel Grimm. The previous article also said that no new G spaces were created. 

Natalie Hanson can be reached at @[email protected] or @nhanson_reports on Twitter.