In the past fiscal year, University Parking and Transportation Services has seen a marked increase in the number of parking tickets administered, as well as the percentage of unpaid tickets. According to Associate Vice President of Facilities and Services Richard Pifer, this increase is correlated to Parking’s lack of ability to enforce rules.
“We don’t have a mechanism to help encourage adherence to the parking rules,” Pifer said over a phone interview on Wednesday. “As a consequence, more and more people are parking where they want for as long as they want.”
In the 2007 fiscal year, which began in July of 2006 and ended in June 2007, Parking issued 16,511 tickets. As of Monday, March 3, 16,481 tickets had been written in the 2008 fiscal year, which began in July 2007. This is not the only issue, however. In the 2007 fiscal year, 7,106 tickets were paid, whereas only 4,043 have been paid this year, meaning that less than 25 percent of fees have been resolved.
“The situation we have isn’t a good situation,” Pifer said. “People abusing the spaces are making life much more difficult for people who comply.”
It is not just that a large number of tickets have gone unpaid, but that a certain number of people are repeatedly disregarding the tickets. There are 632 cars with four or more outstanding tickets. It is estimated that 458 of these cars belong to students. Pifer posits that the rest of these cars probably belong to a combination of staff and people not affiliated with the University.
Pifer emphasized that the main purpose of the tickets is not to bring in revenue.
“The fact that tickets are unpaid isn’t [the] driving issue,” he said. “The issue is that there is a relatively small number of people who are repeatedly abusing parking privileges, which further complicates parking operation.”
The decision of to how to make members of the University community follow parking standards is not an easy one, and, under the advice of Dean of the College Richard Feldman, a student parking task force was formed. Consisting of approximately 10 students, two of which were commuter students, the group was asked to provide feedback about the way Parking is currently run and how to better improve the parking situation.
The discussion started off with an overview of Parking and touched on lots, the number of spaces available and the number of permits given out. The group then talked about the popular complaints regarding Parking – that there aren’t enough spots or it’s too expensive – as well as the absence of the booting policy and its potential and perceived ramifications and the availability and effectiveness of shuttles.
“I thought it was a very, very productive meeting,” Pifer said. “[It is] frequent to hear only the complaints, but these students, once we shared horror stories and commiserated, were very forthright and thoughtful about what were the issues and how might we address them in the future.”
“They were very open to suggestion and very willing to talk to us,” Speaker of the Students’ Association Senate and senior Sam Lehman, who attended the meeting, said.
With the success of the initial meeting, the task force is looking forward to another discussion.
However, Pifer warned that the issues weren’t going to be fixed easily. Currently, Parking knows who receives a ticket and can send a letter that asks the violator to pay the fee. If it is a staff member who isn’t in compliance, then it can become a performance issue, but the University has avoided tying outstanding tickets to academic records. As of now, the only repercussions a student can suffer for not paying the ticket is the inability to register for a parking permit in future years, and copies of transcripts can be withheld.
“[Many students are] willing to accept a relatively inexpensive penalty [of the ticket],” Pifer said. “I’m not anxious to move to a towing option because it is far more punitive. If we were to move to a towing position, then the person would have to pay the price of the ticket, the price of the towing and for the impoundment, in addition to the inconvenience of getting the car and the potential of damage to the vehicle.”
Most peer institutions use booting and towing for enforcement, and, while it sounds objectionable to most students, Lehman thinks that booting may be the best answer.
“Going in [to the meeting] I was excited to look for alternatives to booting,” Lehman said, “but the more we talked, the more I realized that there really isn’t a better option.”
According to Pifer, the major issue is that the space available is very limited, and Parking wants to work to use the space it has most efficiently. Until more space is available, it is essential that members of the community work to abide by the rules so that the space available is used effectively.
“Our primary goal is to keep order on campus and have the most efficient use of parking available,” Pifer said. “If people don’t abide by rules, it complicates the process.”
Philbrick is a member of the class of 2009.