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Police share different perspective on parking

It is hard to live through a single day on this campus without hearing someone mention that UMBC has ‘stolen’ between twenty and forty dollars from them by means of a parking ticket. The ever-peering eyes of Big Brother Freeman seem to watch over every lot and spot on the campus, his hands already prepared to thrust that hellish yellow envelope into the windshield of each offending vehicle.

In a haste to send a complaint, angry students access the UMBC Parking Services website, only to find that it has not been updated since the fall of 2014. Emails to Parking Services may get no response. In unison, the parking ticket victims shout, “Theft! There isn’t a single spot left on campus! Build more spots!”

This may be a generalization, but the experience of getting a parking ticket at UMBC seems common. In fact, though, student parking is a common problem for many colleges, particularly ones with a large percentage of commuters.

Justin Keagy, a sophomore at Towson University, reported similar problems on his campus. “Many students choose to not bring cars since the cost for an annual permit is so expensive [$340 annually],” he said, “and there isn’t enough student parking in general.”

College Park also has its share of parking problems. As of 2017, the University will not allow sophomores to keep their cars on campus in addition to the already excluded freshmen.

The Retriever has written about parking enforcement before. In a staff editorial from April, we reported that “there are 7,250 parking spaces on campus, including the 391 spot freshman satellite lot,” and yet “there have been 11,276 parking passes doled out this year.”

As ridiculous as this may seem, this is actually a widespread practice, according to the Deputy Chief of the UMBC Police Department, Paul Dillon.

“The fact of the matter is that there will probably never be 11,000 students and faculty on campus at one time,” said Dillon. “For example, one of the gated lots on campus has a total of 200 spots. We end up giving out 240 parking passes because we know that not everyone comes to campus every day, people take leave and vacations, sicknesses, etc.”

“The system is in place for the same reason that airlines sell more tickets than seats on their planes: it’s a common business practice.” said Dillon. “If there are too many excess parking spots, they become financially unfeasible. Those are spots that now have to be maintained without proper usage, which is a much more expensive process than meets the eye.”

Dillon also recognizes the problem of parking for commuters. “I get a lot of complaints from students saying, ‘I drove around for thirty minutes and I couldn’t find a spot,’ and to them I’d say ‘Why don’t you parking in Lot 25 and walk the fifteen minutes,’ he said. “They would have saved time, gas, money, and get some exercise, because Lot 25 never fills up.”

“Outside of that, all you can really do is get there as early as you can and learn what areas fill up and what areas do not,” said Dillon. He went on to claim that some commuters tend to only rely on the interior ring of parking spots to make their walk easier, rather than biting the bullet and walking an extra five or ten minutes to their spot.

Some students think that simply adding more parking lots to open areas is a quick and easy fix for parking. Unfortunately, that simply is not an option, according to Dillon.

“In accords to the master plan for the university, there will be another garage up on Hilltop & Hilltop. Other than that, we’ve run out of flat land as far as parking goes, so any more additions will have to be built upwards,” said Dillon. But parking garages present their own challenges. “Parking garages, however, are extremely expensive,” said Dillon, “[costing] roughly $20,000 to $25,000 per spot.”

Dillon also addressed the ‘mystery’ of where all of the money generated from parking tickets goes. “I know for a fact that ticket money goes directly to the university, not the police department,” he said. “However, because Parking Services is overseen by the police department, we have influence on where that money is spent. A majority of the money is spent on improving the roads and parking areas, whether that be some form on construction or maintaining what we already have,” Dillon said.

So, we may not all have closure on our parking issues, but it seems that biting our tongues and remembering that most of us will not be here for more than four years is the best option. However, Dillon says that he is always willing to answer any questions students or faculty have about parking or anything else involving the campus police. Happy walking!