With in-person classes back in full swing, parking lots around campus have gone from empty to packed. But despite the rough first-week parking, obtaining a parking permit has never been smoother, according to Office of Administrative Services Communication and Marketing Officer Colton Morgan.
“It’s more efficient for the customer since you don’t have to print out a temporary permit while you wait for your sticker to come in the mail,” said Morgan. “You get immediate access the moment you check out and fill out the form with your license plate information.”
The “Park Plate Out” policy was implemented Aug. 12 and considers a vehicle’s license plate its parking permit. Drivers must now also park with their plate facing out.
Looking at this past first week of the fall semester, Assistant Director of Parking and Transportation Services Peter Tiberni said the new policy hasn’t drastically changed operations, but it has allowed officers to become more efficient.
“Since it’s a decision driven by a computer, the officers just have to agree with what the computer is saying,” said Tiberini. “So there hasn’t been much of a change in operations other than the officers not needing to get out of their car to try and look for a sticker since the permit is the license plate.”
Prices for the permits are the same as last year, with residential students paying $226 annually or $113 per semester and nonresidential students paying $183 annually or $91 per semester. The number of permits bought last week was estimated by Tiberini to be around 13,000, similar to the 12,457 sold in the first week of fall 2020.
Due to students previously putting in complaints regarding switching vehicles while only having one sticker permit, according to Morgan, the new policy allows for students to add up to three cars on their account.
Chelsea Hemenway, a senior majoring in English, said she had to occasionally drive different vehicles to school while only having one permit sticker.
“Only having one sticker was difficult when I had to transfer between cars if mine broke down,” said Hemenway. “This policy makes a lot more sense and eases a lot of anxiety for me as a commuter since it’s all online and I don’t have to worry about a flimsy sticker.”
Alex Mason, a sophomore majoring in biomedical sciences, has also enjoyed the new parking policy since he doesn’t need to purchase daily permits anymore.
“The new policy is really nice because my car needed work done right at the beginning of the semester and I was able to put a different car under the permit,” said Mason. “Without that aspect of the policy, I probably would’ve had to pay for daily permits, which add up quickly.”
Tiberini said the plates are scanned through the use of handheld devices by the three to four officers on duty throughout the day.
“The officers scan the plates with handheld devices, however, there are sometimes errors so we prefer the officers to manually type in the plate numbers themselves,” said Tiberini.
The focus of this new policy, according to Tiberini, was to improve the experience of the customer. A minimal amount of money was saved, but it was not the main priority in implementing the policy, he said.
“We definitely saved money on mailing since we would mail over 30,000-40,000 permits a year,” said Tiberini. “But we are more so concerned with the customer’s experience and improving our business.”
Morgan said the only negative feedback received as of Aug. 30 was from students who didn’t realize they didn’t need to wait for a physical permit to come in the mail and had to sign up for the permit online.
“I don’t believe we really received any negative feedback on the policy yet,” said Morgan. “Some people thought they had to wait for the permit to come in the mail and didn’t realize it was all virtual, but other than that, I have not heard any negatives.”
Under the new policy, students are no longer allowed to back into spots due to their license plates not being visible and will receive a $15 fine if they do so, according to the Parking General Guidelines, Registration, Rates and Penalties form.
Although the new parking policy has been received positively so far, students are still struggling to find places to park on campus.
Nicole Martinez, a senior majoring in secondary English education, currently doesn’t have a parking permit and instead purchases daily passes. Since she expressed a struggle to find a space every day, Martinez has considered purchasing the permit.
“In previous semesters, I have found that even with a parking permit there isn’t a reasonable number of parking spots near my class or none at all,” said Martinez. “So, I will likely purchase a permit because purchasing daily permits is not ideal.”
Mason also struggled to find parking spaces this past semester, especially when looking back at last semester when most students were online and not parking on campus.
“I definitely have had many issues parking this semester since I can’t really find many spaces,” said Mason. “I parked on campus in fall of 2020, but it was not nearly as bad as it is now since people were not on campus.”
Tiberini said the new parking policy has no effect on the number of spaces in the parking lots — around 20,700 spots across the Tampa campus. At any given moment, according to Tiberini, there may be between 1,200-1,600 available spots across campus.
“I don’t believe the new policy has changed our number of spaces available during the week or had any major impact on the parking issues students are having,” said Tiberini. “The policy still has made USF’s parking more efficient.”
While the new policy won’t alleviate the daily struggles of finding a parking spot, Hemenway said she will continue to arrive on campus early with the hopes of securing a spot.
“I plan on continuing to take the advice I received at my freshman orientation,” she said. “‘Get to campus an hour and a half before your first class and don’t move your car until you’re ready to leave for the day.’”