Dude, where’s my electric car?

Photo by Travis Fortnum

Andrew Walker (left) and Clinton Sharpe of Space Age Electric work to install the power podiums for the newly relocated electric car parking.

The electric car community on campus is in shock after learning that access to their usual park and charge spots would be lost – at least temporarily.

It used to be that Johnny Paty could drive his 2012 Chevy Volt onto campus and park in one of two specialized electric vehicle spots in the Student Services Building (SSB) lot. Those two spots featured charging podiums which supplied free power to the vehicles as their drivers attended class or whatever business brought them to campus.

Paty is a student studying in Durham College’s one-year Project Management grad certificate program. Recently, he and others who park in the SSB lot were notified that it would be closed off due to construction of the Centre for Collaborative Education (to replace the Simcoe building), leaving him and other electric car owners without access to the power their vehicles require.

“I initially contacted the parking office to find out if they had any plans in place to extend their amount of electric vehicle parking spots on campus,” Paty says. “[They] got back to me saying ‘Bad news, Johnny! Actually we’re getting rid of all of the spots altogether.’ So instead of providing access to more electric vehicles, they’re completely taking them away.”

Paty says there are at least five drivers on campus with electric vehicles. Given that there were only two spots, the arrangement was already tight.

“There [was] kind of an unspoken thing where we’ll park to the outside of the left and right spots and a third vehicle can park in the middle,” says Paty. “If you’re there after those three people you’re kind of too late.”

Paty feels if he hadn’t reached out to parking employees about this matter, he would have been even more caught off guard by the closing of the SSB lot, as the others in the community were shocked when Paty relayed this information.

“None of them had any idea this was going on,” says Paty. “After [I talked to them] one of the parking officials came up to each of the cars that pulled in to the parking lot and gave them a little slip of paper that said ‘this lot is going to be closed.’ And that’s the extent of the information.”

School officials began notifying those who utilize the lot two weeks before finally closing it Nov. 21.

When Paty began his search for answers, he was put in contact with Ross Carnwith, manager of ancillary services on campus, who indicated work was being done to relocate the spots and charging podiums to the pay and display area of the Commencement One lot.

“I have a quote out now to move the units physically,” Carnwith says. “So right now the spots are painted out and we’re physically going to move them as quickly as possible.”

Carnwith hopes to have the spots up and running by the end of the month.

Paty says that this means he’ll have to buy a parking pass for the same annual fee of $650 other drivers pay, something he believed wasn’t necessary for electric vehicle owners.

“Upon researching this college and my choice of vehicle I was under the impression that I was going to have access to free parking as well as electrical utilities,” Paty says.

Free parking on a college campus? It’s something that Carnwith says was never official.

“I did check with other campuses,” Carnwith says, “what they do is charge standard parking rates, but the electricity is free. And that’s where we’re headed. Standard parking rates but the electricity is free.”

Carnwith says he’s pushing to ensure the spots are ready as soon as possible. For Paty, it isn’t just about the inconvenience of relocation.

“I don’t mind the changes over a course of time if we still have access to charging and designated parking spots,” Paty says. “I get that. But to spring this on someone who’s a 29-year-old student who’s got a baby on the way and to take it away with less than a week’s warning… go through the process of change. I researched this. I was told that I was going to get free parking, now that’s being ripped away from me.”

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Travis Fortnum is a second-year journalism student. He has a love for politics and is passionate about covering campus news, community events, and sports. Aside from the Chronicle, his stories have been featured in the Oshawa This Week, Brooklin Town Crier, Whitby Snap'd and on druhamregion.com.