Parking changes put students in bad spot
Published: Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Updated: Monday, September 12, 2011 14:09
After another annual increase in the price for parking permits, University of Nebraska Omaha graduate student in sociology and anthropology Carrie Mae felt "strong-armed" into buying a parking permit from UNO Parking.
"I take night classes, and the Crossroads shuttle doesn't run late enough," Mae said. "Public transportation isn't really a viable option for me or many other people in Omaha, as the distance from the nearest bus stop to my house is beyond walking distance, which I acknowledge is not UNO's fault. Elmwood [Park] is often unsafe for women walking alone at night. Those are really the only parking options for students, and when all of them fail or are unsafe, buying a parking permit is the only option left."
Mae, looking for a way to discuss her parking problems with fellow students, started the Facebook group, "Boycott UNO Parking."
"I originally posted a rant on the ‘WTF Moments at UNO' Facebook page," Mae said. "And someone suggested we start an "official" page to hate on campus parking. So I did."
Although Mae's group has only reached 18 members on Facebook at the time of this writing, she's found many students on-campus with identical feelings.
"I'm not getting much of a response, but I didn't necessarily expect to, on Facebook at least," Mae said. "However, when I've talked with people on campus about it, everyone seems to be on the same page: it's outrageous, but there's nothing we can do about it."
A student day/night permit increased from $130 to $150. Garage access is an additional $100.
There are more changes than permit pricing, however.
In the past, lots opened for those with night permits at 12:30 p.m. This fall, those same lots are available for students with night permits at 2:30 p.m. The same can be said about any lots that previously opened to most permits at 1:30 p.m. This fall, those will open at 2:30 p.m. as well.
Increases to parking violation fines are also among the policy changes.
Going beyond one's time at a parking meter will be $10 more expensive, as the fine for an expired meter increased to $30. Students, faculty, staff and visitors who found the $30 fine for unauthorized parking in a reserved stall to be paltry may find the increased $100 fine a bit more punitive. The $100 fine for unauthorized parking in a handicap stall increased to $150. Counterfeit permits will also be more costly, as the fine increased from $100 to $150. All other fines remain the same.
"I think raising the ticket prices is hitting below the belt a bit," Mae said. "Not only is parking becoming more scarce, they're charging more for fines."
The increased fines and permit prices combined with paltry parking opportunities prompted the group's conception.
"Parking has gotten more and more expensive since I started at UNO in 2003, but the ‘parking situation' has gotten far worse," Mae said. "That's really the second reason I started the group. I feel like if you want to charge us more, at least make it an even trade: offer adequate numbers of parking spots at the very least. As the old joke says, ‘It shouldn't be a parking permit, but rather a hunting permit.'"
Despite her strong feelings, Mae admitted that an all-out boycott is impractical.
"There aren't other options," she said. "For that reason, I do understand that a boycott isn't practical for most students, and frankly I don't expect anyone to inconvenience themselves or make their education more difficult than it needs to be."
Although she doesn't expect any response from Parking, Mae has an ideal outcome.
"Ideally, I'd love to see a compromise: raise prices if you want, but then make sure there's actually parking available," Mae said. "I've heard talk of taking away more parking in the middle of campus near the library too, on top of raising prices, and that just doesn't seem right. I think, in the end, it's all in the name of fairness, but that's just me being an idealist."