I have been at Eastern Michigan University since January 2010, and I have yet to have a semester go by without getting a parking ticket. It isn’t as though I try to skirt the rules or I am wholly irresponsible, but, each semester, something stupid happens so that I end up with a parking ticket.
For example, one year, I was one day late to buying a pass. At the time, I had never used a pay lot at the school and wasn’t sure where they were, so I parked by the police office and ran inside. There was no line. I was inside no longer than three minutes, but by the time I emerged with a parking pass, I had a ticket. I brought the ticket back inside, but there was no leniency given.
This experience does not seem to be all that unique. A number of my student peers have gone through similar circumstances.
I will not argue I did not deserve the ticket in that situation. I was late. I knew it. It was my fault. I guess what bothers me is EMU had a large campaign last year about how they, unlike other schools, were not going to raise tuition on students in the middle of this recession. That’s fine and all, but the way parking is policed, like it is a means to fleece the poor student populace, seems to argue against this populism.
The tickets are expensive, and there is no room for an honest mistake. I’m not sure how large the staff is that polices for parking tickets, but I am impressed just how quickly a car will get nailed with a ticket if it does not have a hangtag.
At the end of the day, the way parking is policed and fined feels much more like a form of university funding than as a deterrent to unauthorized parking. Very simply, a $25 to $30 fine is unnecessary. A $5 or $10 fine would suffice as a deterrent, in my opinion, and there ought to be more understanding for honest mistakes.
This is especially true at the beginning of the semester, when students are notified of the date they must buy the parking hangtag by an email system that seems hardly reliable.
And it is not as though parking ticket income is helping to subsidize the cost of parking. No, hangtag prices jumped from $75 to $100 this semester. I do not think $100 is terribly expensive, since it amounts to around $3.33 a day for a student who commutes twice a week, but, with that cost, should there not be some service?
At one point this semester, my car went in the shop, so I had to take my wife’s car to school. I had forgotten to grab the hangtag to put in my wife’s car, though the hangtag is technically only associated to my license plate, and I ended up getting a ticket. Would it be so bad to be able to prove I am an authorized hangtag owner? Could that not be looked up in the computer and the fine wiped away? Apparently not. I had to pay.
I understand those who police parking have a tough and necessary job to do. I just think it would be met with a whole lot less antagonism if there did not seem to be such an eagerness to give fines and a rigidity to those of us who are trying to follow the rules.