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Students have difficulties with on-campus parking

Since the school year began last fall, Public Safety has given out nearly two thousand tickets on campus. But department officials say building more spaces is too costly and is looking at other ways to solve the parking problem.

Public Safety gave out about 1,828 parking and traffic violation citations from last fall to April 13.

Director of Public Safety Michael Lopez manages all charges for the citations, which range from $20 to $250. He has more than eight years of vehicle trafficking experience as a police officer, and said he strives to ensure the traffic safety on campus.

“If you don’t have parking and regulation, you have chaos, and that is what we have tried to stay away from,” he said.

Plenty of students know the frustrating feeling of walking to her or his car and noticing the red-barred ticket on the windshield.

“I got a $55 ticket because I had my flashers and part of my car was in the red zone,” said Music MFA student and commuter William Fitch, who is one of many who are ticketed for parking in the red or in a undesignated spot. “I was going to contest it, but I just paid it.”

Lopez said students on campus are most ticketed at the Oval in front of Mills Hall.

“Students will park there when they can’t find any other parking places and they are late for class,” Lopez said, “and they can’t park there in the 13 guest spots.”

The most ticketing on campus usually occurs at the beginning of each semester when students don’t have parking permits on their windshields.

Public Safety usually offers a leniency period of two weeks for the Mills community to get their permits.

“Then I say ‘Go out and buzz them’ and they will sometimes write over 100 tickets in one night,” Lopez said.

Students can also receive moving violation tickets from running a stop sign or not respecting a pedestrian’s right of way.

“People need to slow down. And yes, we know you are in a hurry but, sometimes, when you are driving too fast, you get tunnel vision, and I have seen way too many close calls,” said Lopez, who explained he pushes Public Safety to watch for vehicles surpassing the 20 mile per hour speed limit on campus.

The fines for tickets are paid to the Department of Public Safety and go towards future services and safety procedures. Still, the biggest concern shared by most students who drive on campus is the availability of parking spaces.

“The parking is not horrible, but you do have to come early, especially if your class is after 1:00. It is hard to find spots,” said senior Crystal Winje.

There are about 1,084 parking spots on campus, each designated for one type of driver — either commuter, residential, faculty, staff or facilities.

More than 263 residential students, 460 faculty and staff and 1,046 commuting and EF students have parking permits on campus.

In accordance to the Department of Justice, which requires ADA-accessible spaces at the center of the campus, more ADA-accessible lots have been placed, including the recent spaces on Pine Top Road. There are 50 accessible spots on campus in total.

Lopez said plans to ease parking woes caused by high demand during certain hours include installing a car share program, which will allow students to rent a car for an hour to go off campus. He also hopes to make parking in Richard’s Lot easier with a roundabout shuttle.

A few years ago the department thought about building a new parking structure on campus or otherwise creating additional spaces, but Lopez said the idea “was short-lived because [of] how much it cost.”

A 2007 estimate was $40,000 per space. The cost was so high because the land for extra parking spaces, particularly those that need to be ADA-accessible, would have to be leveled to be built.

Even though Fitch said he was frustrated with his ticket for illegal parking in a red zone, he understands the cost of building more spaces on the campus.

“I wouldn’t want to trade the natural beauty of the campus for another lot,” he said.

As graduation approaches, Lopez said he recommends graduating students and their families arrive early for parking, as the ceremony will be extra crowded since Nancy Pelosi is this year’s commencement speaker.

“My tip is to get there early, early, early. Last year, we had to close the front gate because all the parking places were filled,” Lopez said, warning that overfilling the campus spots could result in the Fire Department towing vehicles.

Lopez recommends arriving by 8:30 a.m. and plans to create more space for regular and ADA-accessible parking by opening the president’s meadow for parking. A shuttle will help people get to Toyon from other areas of campus.

According to the Student Safety and Transportation guide, parking illegally in an ADA-accessible blue zone carries a $250 fine. Parking illegally at a fire hydrant, fire lane or tow away zone costs $50.

When given a citation, students must pay the fine in 14 days or submit an appeal form, available in the Public Safety Office, to the Citation Appeals Committee. Students also have the option to pay off the fine with campus community work and campus clean up. Community service work includes office work If the citation is not paid the fine can be doubled and placed upon the student’s account.