by Bryanne McDonough | published May. 6th, 2016
One of the most common complaints about parking on campus is the paid parking model. Recently, students and administration came to a head over increases in rates.
Parking at RIT was free until 2013, when President Destler introduced the paid parking model. Student passes were set at $100 and have stayed at that rate. The transition did not go over easily with those used to parking for free.
"It was to keep tuition down," explained Adam Petzold, operations and events parking manager at RIT. "It was part of the cost saving initiatives that [Destler] put forth."
Petzold stressed that Parking and Transportation works hard to listen to students and address their complaints. The department reads the RIT Reddit posts and Pawprints that involve questions and complaints about Parking and Transportation.
"We obviously want to hear from students," said Petzold. "We're here for them."
The paid parking model makes it so that only those who are bringing their cars onto campus have to pay extra for the privilege, instead of the associated cost being applied to everyone's tuition. The money from parking pass sales does not go directly to Parking and Transportation, but rather to the general institute fund.
"We're not in it to make money," Petzold said.
Parking and Transportation is not an auxiliary of RIT, like Housing Operations or Dining Services. This means that they are not tasked with making money for the Institute. In fact, the money collected from pass sales and tickets would not be enough to cover the operation of Parking and Transportation, according to Petzold. While the administration cannot promise to keep the parking fees constant, students can expect only modest, inflationary increases in rates.
"Complaints I've heard … [are] the general parking that they give out permits for will be completely full, [but] reserved parking will have more than half the spaces open," said Bridget Hurley, president of the Association for Commuter Engagement and third year Management Information Systems major. "You park there, you get a $30 ticket."
Petzold confirmed that this was a common criticism that the Parking and Transportation department sees through Reddit or PawPrints. When paid parking was implemented, the reserved parking prices remained the same as before. It was decided around 2005 or 2006 that reserved parking would account for a third of parking spaces in any lot. Parking and Transportation will sell reserved passes up to that number, according to lot.
"We do lot counts the second week of every semester," Petzold said. "Our guy is going out there and physically counting how many spaces are open and reserved throughout the day."
The busiest times for parking are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The amount of reserved parking spots must be able to accommodate all reserved pass holders during the busiest times. This means that during non-peak hours, it seems as though there are too many reserved spaces open.
Based on the information collected during the first two weeks of the semester, Parking and Transportation decides exactly how many reserved spaces there should be per lot, while remaining under the one third limit. Reserved parking passes in popular lots often sell out, while less popular lots like F and J do not.
Another common grievance is that general parking passes are not issued to Park Point and Province residents, although they can purchase after-hours passes. The reasoning behind this is that RIT provides free bus service to and from Park Point and Province.
"We don't have room to park those cars," explained Petzold.
Instead, Parking and Transportation has worked to improve bus reliability and ease of use by ensuring a stricter schedule and creating an app to track the buses.
"They have worked to make the bus timing much more consistent," Hurley said. "To the point where … the complaints of that have gone significantly down."
One of the new technologies that Parking and Transportation is looking into is Parkmobile, a variation of metered parking without a physical meter. This would allow students who are running late to class, or who do not regularly park on campus, to have a way to pay for parking hourly. This app would allow commuters to add time to the "meter" by paying on their smartphone or online. Petzold and others in the department are constantly evaluating technologies like these that could improve parking for students.
Petzold's primary job is to coordinate event parking at RIT. Many complaints occur when events take up spaces that are usually available to students. Emails about lot closures for events are sent out through Message Center so that commuters have advance warning. Petzold tries his best to ensure that the events are only given what they need.
"It's difficult to manage, but you're doing it for the greater good, for the students," Petzold said, adding that all of these events are geared toward students.
During these events, they tend to be much more lenient about ticketing, according to Petzold. In fact, Parking and Transportation tends to be very lenient about parking violations in general. Of tickets issued, 56 percent of them are warnings. This is uncommon for parking services on a college campus, but it is possible because Parking and Transportation is not an auxiliary.
"We're able to be lenient, to work from an educational standpoint," Petzold said. In the real world, violating parking laws can result in heavy fines and even jail time. By issuing warnings, Parking and Transportation is able to educate students about what is allowed and what is not without the hard consequences.
As for the tickets with fines, these often go to repeat offenders.
"Technically, everyone only gets one warning per academic year, but like I said, we're very lenient," Petzold said.
"I think they're pretty reasonable with the appeals process for tickets," Hurley confirmed.
Petzold explained that the Parking and Transportation office is always looking for input from students about what they can do to improve.
“I do, from working with them, strongly believe that Parking and Transportation does look into these options and are doing everything they can to help the students,” Hurley said.