It’s no secret that parking affects many of the students, staff and faculty at USF. For those who commute to campus daily, frustrations can mount from the lack of spaces, hefty fees and pricy consequences for breaking on-campus parking rules.
Not only do members of the USF community pay a lot for their parking passes – up to $83.46 for the summer semester alone – they must also be adept at finding a parking space near their class or office. This can pose quite a problem, as there are more than 30,000 students enrolled at USF’s Tampa campus, and only 18,500 spaces are available.
The dearth of available spots and a working knowledge of the parking rules leads to a number of parking citations for students in a hurry each semester.
Director of Parking and Transportation Services (PTS) Manny Lopez understands the frustration that comes with receiving a parking ticket.
“People feel sometimes that citations are unfair, or that it’s even unfair to pay for parking,” Lopez said. “We issue citations only because it is a way of protecting those that do follow the rules. There has to be control in terms of utilizing our limited resources. It’s a necessary evil.”
If you park illegally at USF, expect a $75 fine for the first occurrence. At Florida State University, the same offense will cost just $20. Each university sets its own prices for parking tickets and permits. Where does the money go?
The money collected from citations and permits helps to fund the operation of PTS. Specifically, the money goes to “operation and maintenance and construction of parking facilities, operation of the Bull Runner and general operating expenses.”
“Last year’s budget was about $9 million, $6 million of that came from parking permits,” said Lopez. “The second source of revenue is the student transportation fee, which is $2.25 per credit hour. The third source of revenue is citations.”
Last year, citations brought in $1,060,000, and just more than $250,000 from those citations went uncollected.
PTS is an “auxiliary operation,” which means it is almost entirely self-funded and doesn’t receive any money from the state. As a result, raising the revenue needed to fund PTS for one of the largest universities in the nation is a big task. The state allocates funds to build classrooms and do research but does not provide money for parking, as “parking isn’t a part of the main mission of the University,” said Lopez.
The most common violation is failure to have a valid parking permit, which results in a $35 fine. According to Lopez, about 90 percent of citations are paid or collected. If a student doesn’t pay a parking ticket, PTS can place a hold on the student’s account, preventing him or her from graduating or requesting transcripts.
For non-students who receive tickets on campus, PTS does a “Tag Talk,” where they get the owner’s address and send them the bill. If the person who received the ticket does not pay the bill and the car is found on campus again, the car gets ‘booted’ and the owner has to pay not only to get the boot off, but must settle the entire balance as well.
How can tickets be avoided? “The main thing is understanding the rules and regulations,” Lopez said. “Everyone needs a permit to park on campus seven days a week, 24 hours a day, unless you are parked at a meter. Knowing the rules will prevent students from having to visit the office of PTS.”
However, there are ways around this pricy operation.
Much of the USF campus is fitted with bicycle lanes for those wishing to bike to class or work. There’s also the Bull Runner, the USF bus system, and HARTline, the metro bus system. The Bull Runner is free for all USF students, faculty, visitors and staff.
HARTline, provided by the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, boasts 25 stops throughout the USF campus and is free for those with a valid USF ID. PTS pays for the Bull Runner and the free HARTline rides, and they are looking into making the campus more bike-friendly.
For those who live a longer distance from campus, there are other ways to save. Students and staff are able to pay just $50 a year for park-and-ride, which, according to Lopez, is “an inexpensive alternative to parking.”