Jen Patterson scribbled a short note on a piece of paper, stuck it on her windshield and hurried to her TCF 112 class. The note read, “Having a bad day. Please be kind, oh gracious UA employee!” and was signed with a smiley face. Patterson, a senior majoring in journalism, escaped a parking ticket that day, but she has not always been so lucky.
On-campus parking has been a hot topic among students for a number of years, and as the University continues to grow, close parking becomes more expensive and more difficult to find. Students continue to debate ways to get around UA parking policies.
“It’s kind of like a fun game,” Patterson said. “Like, how can I avoid a parking ticket today?”
Patterson has tried several different tactics to avoid a ticket, while still saving herself the time from walking from the Northeast commuter lot, which she has a pass for, to Reese Phifer.
“I’ve parked in 30-minute parking all day without getting a ticket,” she said. “I’ve also tried putting an old parking ticket in my window, but I guess they check those because when I got back, I had two tickets on my windshield. What has worked best for me is 30–minute parking.”
Chris D’Esposito, the director of parking services at the University, said the best way to avoid a ticket is simply following the rules.
“When an individual elects to purchase a permit, they agree to abide by the rules and regulations as prescribed by The University of Alabama,” he said. “Individuals failing to adhere to these rules and regulations are, at minimum, subject to being cited.”
Often students complain there is not enough space on campus for parking. D’Esposito said the issue is not really that there is not enough parking for students, but students are unable to always have their desired parking spot.
“Parking on campus is a matter of personal perceived conveniences,” he said. “The University would love to provide the ability for all students or faculty and staff members to arrive 10 minutes before their respective class or office hours begin and find a close proximity space, but chances are, that is not going to happen. The University is dynamic in nature, so it really depends on an individual’s time management.”
The earlier a student or faculty member arrives to campus, the more likely he or she is to find a parking spot in his or her desired location. But the reality is not everyone will want to be on campus at 7:30 a.m., D’Esposito said.
Patterson is not the only student who tries to outsmart the system.
Matt Reid, a senior majoring in marketing, lives off campus and does not have a parking pass.
“When I got a new tag, I started parking illegally on campus,” Reid said. “Because my car tag changed, I am no longer registered with UA parking, and I don’t have to pay the tickets.”
Reid said students should be careful though, because if they have more than three tickets, parking services may boot the car, and the individual would have to settle any tickets and pay to remove the boot.
D’Esposito said the University does not keep track of how many parking tickets go unpaid.
Another ploy Reid uses is leaving his hazard lights on.
“I will park anywhere and just put my hazard lights on,” he said. “One time I left it for like five hours. I kind of forget about it honestly.”
Kody Johnson, a senior majoring in psychology and criminal justice, uses his hazard lights as well but never longer than 15 minutes.
“I don’t like to call it a trick,” he said. “It’s more of a disguise. I drive a Ford Ranger, and it looks like UA’s grounds keeping trucks. It doesn’t have the logo, but whenever I need to pick up or drop off a friend on campus or run in somewhere really quickly, I just park wherever and turn on my hazards.”
For Johnson, the disguise has worked well, and he has not gotten a ticket doing it yet.
Despite all the tips and tricks, many students agree that there is room for improvement in the parking system, such as parking pass price.
D’Esposito said the prices of passes are kept as low as possible.
“The University tries to keep the cost for parking as low as possible by using the most economical means,” D’Esposito said. “A surface parking lot is the least expensive, followed by a parking deck. The most expensive would be underground parking.”
Although Johnson believes the University has a suitable parking system, despite what other students may think, he still believes they can improve a few things.
“I think the parking system here is done pretty well,” he said. “UA has a great bus system, and they really try to get people where they need to be on time. But I do think the bus system could be re-engineered. I park in the Northeast commuter lot and take the Green buses. I think the Green route takes five to 10 minutes longer than all the other routes. If they could put a third bus on the route, it would be a lot better.”
At times, students have to be willing to compromise on convenience for the sake of the overall community, D’Esposito said.
“The University of Alabama is a community,” he said. “One of the definitions of community is a group of people living and working together in one place, especially practicing common ownership. The University has established guidelines, with regard to parking on campus, through the rules and regulations. The expectation is that everyone within the community honors the rules and regulations so that all can benefit from a safe and efficient parking and transportation environment.”