Parking loopholes equals free parking

Graphic illustration.

Ashley Goetz

Graphic illustration.

Community Chest: Proceed to free parking and pay the University nothing. Some students have been pulling this Monopoly card, allowing them to park in University ramps for free while monitors arenâÄôt on duty, stealing about $3 each hour from the University. Kiersten Wessling, a public relations junior, has admittedly taken advantage of this and other loopholes since she discovered them by accident her first year on campus. âÄúIt was kind of luck I guess,âÄù she said. âÄúI parked my car over there one night and I didnâÄôt have to pay the next morning.âÄù Since that first day, Wessling said she took advantage of free parking on 15 to 20 occasions and told three of her friends how to do it. She said she drives into various ramps after the last monitorâÄôs shift, and takes her car out before the first monitor arrives the next morning. But Bob Baker , the head of University Parking and Transportation, said the numbers of drivers taking advantage of the system are surprisingly low âÄî too low, he said, to do anything about it. âÄúYouâÄôve got a few miscreants that are going to show up and take advantage of the system,âÄù he said. Baker said the number of abusers wouldnâÄôt make overnight staffing economical. If there were overnight monitors in every ramp, he said, drivers wouldnâÄôt park in the ramps because theyâÄôd still want to park for free, and the University would lose money due to the extra staffing. To combat drivers looking for unmonitored and empty ramps, the University hires a late-night crew that switches between all ramps on campus on different nights. âÄúWeâÄôll put staff people in there, and of course everybody disappears, so then we pull the staff people out,âÄù Baker said. âÄúItâÄôs a little bit of a cat-and-mouse routine.âÄù But even without a human monitor around, Baker knows how many people are in the ramps because of floor sensors, car counters and camera systems in each ramp. Also, for safety reasons, drivers must be able to exit ramps after hours. Besides students, other drivers have taken advantage of the lots as well. Last week a car that exhibited signs of being stolen âÄî the car and automatic windows worked without a key âÄî was impounded from a University parking ramp. University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said occasionally drivers will leave their cars in the ramps for days or weeks. âÄúPeople try to basically store their vehicle in parking facilities,âÄù Miner said. The offenders will move their cars around between monitorsâÄô shifts, he said. That way, a scan of the camera footage wonâÄôt incriminate a car that has been in the same ramp for days. ItâÄôs rare that a stolen car is parked in the University ramps, but people using the ramps as garages arenâÄôt rare, Baker said. Parking crews monitor the ramps, checking for cars with excessive dust, fluid leakage and flat tires to make sure no one is using a ramp for personal storage. If people are taking advantage of the system, their cars can be towed. Baker said the long-term parkers are usually out-of-town professors or people with cars that have broken down. Parking in the UniversityâÄôs ramps costs about $3 each hour for the first hour, and about $12 for the day, a cost that Baker said has gone up with inflation, and will continue to rise just like âÄútuitionâÄù and âÄúthe price of milk.âÄù But some students, like Wessling, argue that parking fees arenâÄôt reasonable. She said she specifically looks for free parking on the street near her Dinkytown house or metered parking in Stadium Village after 10 p.m. âÄúI feel that the ramps are ridiculously overpriced,âÄù she said. But parking on campus isnâÄôt supposed to be cheap, Baker said, because that only encourages students to drive their cars. The implications for American drivers âÄî infrastructural, environmental and economical costs âÄî are motivation enough for students to look for alternative forms of transport, Baker said. Baker said students have plenty of transportation options, âÄúso I donâÄôt think part of the menu should be free parking.âÄù