No more parking double jeopardy

Abhirupa Dasgupta

“Oh, we’re going to meet at a restaurant on the Drag, that shouldn’t be too far away,” I say, naively typing the address into the Google Maps search bar. The path loads, and I see the walking avatar labeled innocuously: “20 minutes.” My feet begin to ache just looking at the time it’ll take me to get there. A few icons over, it seems like the car avatar is taunting me, with its tantalizing “8 minutes” label. 

All at once, I miss my car, Lexie, who’s sitting in my garage at home, just gathering dust. I wish I had her here with me. But she likes the open road, and I can’t give her that in Austin, so when I moved back to campus for school, I had to bid her farewell.

Plenty of students do bring their cars to campus, though. In the 2016-2017 academic year, Parking and Transportation Services (PTS) issued 13,399 student permits, which means that almost a quarter of all students park their cars on campus. With so many students and cars milling about, there’s bound to be misunderstandings and parking violations. If they park in the wrong spot or without the proper permit, students receive tickets, and they have to pay a fine. 

However, UT’s analog method of distributing parking citations lands some students in hot water. Without a timely digital notification, those who don’t use their cars every day may find themselves paying multiple fines for the same infraction.

Political communications freshman Jarret Carnes received two tickets in a row for parking in the wrong level at Brazos Garage. “I parked there on a Sunday … and I didn’t check my car again until Thursday, so I got (one ticket) on that Monday and another that Wednesday,” he said. 

Carnes ended up having to pay both tickets because he had indeed parked incorrectly, but he was frustrated because the second ticket was redundant. “It would have been really helpful if they would have notified me when that first (ticket) was put on my windshield because then I could have gone out and moved my car and avoided paying that other ticket,” Carnes said.

According to PTS director Bobby Stone, everyone is notified about their parking tickets in the same way.

“A citation is left on the vehicle windshield, and a courtesy email (the one on file with PTS associated with the vehicle plates) is sent to the offender within 24 hours,” Stone wrote in an email. 

Carnes, however, didn’t get that courtesy email until he had already received his second ticket. “I didn’t find out (about the ticket) until I physically walked out there and I saw it on my windshield,” Carnes said.

 Biology sophomore Britlyn Keller had the same experience as Carnes, but she was able to appeal the redundant ticket and get the charges dropped. However, the appeals process doesn’t always work. 

“My friend had the exact same incident, except they didn’t change hers into a warning, and she paid both tickets,” Keller said. 

Carnes also thought about appealing his ticket, but ultimately decided against it because his friends hadn’t had much luck appealing their tickets. 

“I knew it wasn’t really worth my time to appeal,” Carnes said. 

It seems like PTS’ system of sending a courtesy email to notify students of parking isn’t foolproof, but it begs the question: why not just send an email as soon as students receive a ticket or a citation? Students with permits already have their license plate numbers registered with their email in the PTS system, so there’s no reason to wait 24 hours. For those who don’t check their cars every day, this could save time, energy and, most importantly, money. 

Windshield tickets are a relic of the past. It’s time for PTS to adopt a more modern notification system for parking tickets and infractions. 

Dasgupta is a neuroscience sophomore from Frisco.