Will virtual parking permits at UMBC be effective?
A high percentage of UMBC students commute or use a car while living on campus. The advent of virtual parking passes will decrease the hassle of these students updating their physical pass once a year. Photo by Inayah Entzminger.

Will virtual parking permits at UMBC be effective?

UMBC is going to be implementing a new program following in the footsteps of Baltimore City and several other campuses: virtual parking passes. This change may make things easier for both commuters and everyone else who regularly uses and parks their vehicle on campus.

These virtual parking permits will start to be used next semester. UMBC states that they will create a safer environment on campus as the virtual aspect will prevent stolen or lost permits that could be used by anyone who possesses them.

Safety issues are an important reason for changing the current system. With virtual parking, there will be less worry that a permit is stolen since everything will be electronic and automatic. Students can switch between cars without worrying about having to change their permit’s location every time.

Another positive change will be the ability to add at most three cars on an electronic permit. This will assist people who forget to switch their paper parking permit into whatever car they choose to drive that day. Neel Shirsekar, a senior financial economics major, shares that sentiment, believing that “it is definitely a positive change.” He will no longer “have to worry about forgetting the pass anymore.”

65 percent of students do not live on campus, and a great deal of that 65 percent commute to school and need a permit, which UMBC provides with no extra cost. If someone forgets to order their new permit and their old one expires without enough time to replace it, virtual permits completely sidestep the issue of permits arriving in the mail. Since it takes a few business days to receive a physical copy of the permit, going virtual has the advantage of instant service.

A drawback is how much the old permit arrangement being replaced will cost. In Milwaukee, one of the first cities to implement the idea, the cost fell to the taxpayers. One can assume that the cost of the virtual method will also fall to the increases in tuition, which has been stated to rise 2 percent for in-state undergraduates.

However, the cost of the new virtual permits may be worth it if students receive less tickets as a result. Forgetting to replace permits after switching cars can be a costly problem.

Anna Opoku-Agyeman, a senior economics and mathematics major, expresses her doubts about the new procedure. “I think it is pretty inefficient overall … I know that UMD – College Park has implemented this system on their campus, but their Department of Transportation Services seems to have enough staff and oversight to see to the success of the virtual permit system. I am not sure if UMBC has the capacity to do that.”

If done correctly, the new approach can actually help limit tickets for students who may forget to switch their permits out. Overall, there seems to be a big push in university culture to switch over to virtual parking systems, and UMBC is joining that effort to update the campus.