Out-of-date permits no longer give grace period

The first inkling junior Cameron Dean got that his parking permit from last year was not valid for the opening week of the semester was a ticket fluttering on his windshield.

He was not alone. In the first three days of the semester, parking attendants issued 2,540 warning tickets to students and staff for using out-of-date permits, according to Parking and Transportation Services. From Monday, PATS will resume levying the $30 fine for out-of-date permits.

In previous years, annual parking permits covered the first week of the next academic year. Typically, students used the grace period to purchase a new permit. But a change to the expiration date on permits issued in fall 2003 caught several students at unawares.

“The first I knew was when I got a ticket on my first day,” Dean said.

PATS staff said the grace period led to long queues for permits and frustration for students and staff at the start of the semester. To encourage people to purchase their permits earlier, PATS officials decided last summer to amend the expiration date of permits issued in the fall to Aug. 8.

“We tried to find some way to stagger the sales so we didn’t have that big hit where people were in long lines and frustrated,” said Jeff Mack, director of auxiliary services.

But the decision has not proved popular with some students.

Senior Phillip Brown, who received a ticket Monday, said students need all the help they can get in the first week of the semester when finding a parking spot is notoriously difficult.

“I think it’s kind of stupid they get you on the first day when it’s kind of crazy,” he said.

PATS staff handing out permits said many students had complained about the change. Mack said students were not consulted about the change as it is operating policy and not a rule change.

The change was detailed in a postcard sent to permit holders in July. The information was also posted on USF listservs, Mack said.

“I have heard it is people not being aware,” said Manuel Lopez, interim director of PATS. “I guess it’s because it has been the habit. We tried to address that with several communications and we need to continue working on that.”

To enable students and staff to make earlier purchases, permits for this academic year were available via the Internet from July 1. Mack said many students and staff had purchased permits well in advance of the first day of fall, resulting in smaller queues for permits. Of the 22,000 permits purchased for this year, only 4,800 were purchased this week.

Dean was relieved to find that the ticket he received was only a warning, but not knowing whether a second offense would be as lenient, he purchased a one-day permit for $3.

He looks on it as just another new rule he will have to remember for next year.

“They should be a little lenient in the first week,” he said.

Whether the same leniency will be extended to students and staff next year has not yet been decided, Mack said.

“It’s too early to plan for that for now,” Mack said. “We will look and see how things occurred this semester, how many warnings we gave to people and address that next year.”