The rise in parking rates at Thompson Rivers University has caused problems for the manager of the Walmart mall.
Property manager Reet Arbo said Wednesday the problem of students parking for hours to attend their classes arose last year and it's back again this fall.
"We had this problem last year, but we didn't respond. We hoped it would change," she said.
A couple of weeks ago, mall owner Calloway Real Estate Investment Trust wrote the university about the issue and starting putting notices on cars that were left for long periods.
The notices mentioned TRU students and said illegally parked vehicles would be towed at the owner's expense. They also said licence plates were being recorded.
"We don't want students to incur extra costs, but the tenants pay for the parking spaces and they have the right to have them for their customers," said Arbo.
"Our property is a private property, so unless you're shopping there, there's no parking. You can't leave the property without your vehicle."
The mall also cleans up the lot or does snow plowing, and vehicles left for hours can get in the way of that.
Construction at the Walmart store is also making the lot crowded, she added.
"We had one student who had left his vehicle there for sale. He parked it across three stalls."
TRU raised the daily parking rates for students to $4 a day from $3 charged last session.
Annual staff parking jumped from $300 last year to $650 this year. Anyone wanting a premium reserved spot pays $850 a year, but the stall is designated for only that person. Of the 2,400 stalls on campus, 123 are reserved.
TRU spokeswoman Diana Skoglund said TRU set aside more reserved spots this year than last.
Christopher Seguin, TRU vice-president advancement, said the university has heard from neighbouring businesses that parking regulations will be enforced in their lots.
But there are also two lots, N and W, that have more than 200 empty spaces available. As those spots are vacant, the university doesn't have plans to provide more parking.
TRU Student Union president Dustin McIntyre said the problem is about cost more than availability. The cost of parking went up last year and is going up again in each of the next two years.
"This is what happens when you try to hide a revenue plan as a sustainability plan," he said of the increases.
"They can't afford to park when the rates are so high, so they find other places. They're not increasing parking on campus, they're only increasing fees."
Until this year, TRU staff were paying less than students. Now they pay the same rate, he said.
Tom Owen, TRU director of environment and sustainability, said all students get bus passes when they pay their student fees. But it's been difficult to track how many actually take transit.
He has heard stories among staff about the parking-rate increase causing them to try transit or find other options.
Owen himself moved recently so he jumped on the chance to try carpooling with a co-worker.
Parking stalls aren't just expensive but also hard to come by at certain times of the day, but there are spaces available for those willing to walk, he said.
"The problem is, everybody wants to park right where their class is," said Owen.
Other malls near the campus haven't reported the same problem as Walmart.
Superstore assistant manager Andy Tarczali said he hadn't noticed a lot of students using his store's lot this fall.
"Usually we would see it by now," he said.
On the other hand, his store has a large amount of parking available, underground as well as surface.
"We have a lot of parking, with the underground parkade. If it's really cold out or it's busy, it gets more use underground. "
Sahali Centre Mall manager Nicky Plato said she hasn't observed any issues with students parking in the year she's been working there.
"We haven't seen it here. And even the outer stalls are generally pretty empty. We have 1,000 stalls."
TRU tops Interior universities for annual parking costs
TRU charges its students, faculty and staff $4 a day or $650 a year for parking. Reserved stalls are $850 a year.
In Kelowna, UBC Okanagan charges students, faculty and staff $5 a day. Monthly or annual rates for parking lots varies with the lot's location. The more remote lots cost $25 a month, the more convenient ones are up to $40 a month. That translates to $300 to $480 a year.
In Prince George, University of Northern B.C. charges $44.80 per month to staff, students and faculty. Reserved spaces for staff only are $31.01 for two weeks with a plug-in, or $25.84 without. Annual passes are $537.60.
UNBC also offers limited motorcycle parking, at $22.40 per month or $268.80 per year.
UNBC puts all its parking revenue into projects suggested by students, faculty and staff that can make the campus more environmentally sustainable.
At UBC in Vancouver, students face rates between $640 and $720 for eight months, depending on how many parkades the students wants to access. The school offers monthly passes for $90 to $100.