Last August, many MU students expressed outrage when campus officials cut the number of available parking garage permits. In addition, students had trouble accessing the parking portal and parking citations increased in cost.
The MU Parking and Transportation Services office hopes to avoid those issues this year by implementing several changes that will simplify the process.
Last fall, many students encountered a logjam of traffic while attempting to register for parking permits for the 2017-18 academic year. But this year, officials have broken up students into smaller groups and offered more assigned days when they can apply for permits through the MU Parking and Transportation Services’ website.
However, for many, the website had technical difficulties, including site crashes and an inability to log in to their account.
The goal for the coming year is to make sales a lot smoother, said Director of MU Parking and Transportation Services Mike Sokoff.
“We have a great system; it really does work well,” Sokoff said. “But it’s a system and it’s subject to overload just like everything else.”
Part of the issue last year was that so many people were trying to log in to the system at one time. In one day, freshmen, sophomores and juniors were assigned to purchase permits, which clogged the website, MU Operations Communications Manager Karlan Seville said.
“That’s 15,000-plus people within two or three hours trying to buy everything that’s available,” she said.
This year, authorities have spread out the purchase dates:
Medical students — July 29Law students — July 30Veterinary medicine students — July 31Pharmacy or nursing students — Aug. 1Residents of Brooks, Bluford, Center, Mark Twain, North or South — Aug. 2Residents of College Avenue, Defoe-Graham, Discovery, Dogwood, Galena, Gateway, Gillett, Hatch, Hawthorne, Hudson, Johnston, Respect, Schurz or Wolpers — Aug. 3Graduate students — Aug. 6Seniors (90 or more credit hours) — Aug. 7Juniors (60–89 credit hours) — Aug. 8Sophomores (30–59 credit hours) — Aug. 9Freshmen (1–29 credit hours) — Aug. 10
Another reason for the delays was multiple people being logged into one account at the same time from different devices. This, and students or parents creating a visitor account, caused major stress for many students who were attempting to purchase a parking permit. Over 500 people last fall created visitor accounts, which locked them out of the system, Seville said.
Citations upon citations
Over the spring semester, several students complained they received tickets from previous semesters all at once in the spring.
Senior Deija’na Guyton said the MU Parking and Transportation Services office sent her four tickets dating from the beginning of fall 2017, a total of $75. One of the tickets was for parking at the Student Health Center while she was there for an appointment.
“I had to pay them because by the time I received the emails for them, it was too late to dispute them,” Guyton said.
Another student, Zoe Farr, received multiple parking tickets from September and October during the spring semester.
“They claimed they sent a first email whenever it happened, but I definitely didn’t get any until several months later,” Farr said. The tickets ended up being around $200, she said.
The delay in ticketing was a result of many students not registering their vehicles with the MU Parking and Transportation Services office, Sokoff said. Parking officials started to devote a lot more time to figuring out who each unidentified citation belonged to during the spring semester, he said.
“They were legitimate citations, still on the books,” Sokoff said. “We needed to make the proper connections, and we did. And once that license plate was recognized, any citations attached to that plate — they all came together under that person’s now-account, and they’re all sent at the same time.”
The citations were not over a year old, Sokoff said, but parking officials were able to decide how far back they wanted to go. There is no statute of limitations on citations.
“It seems like we’re being kind of punitive, but actually those things have been sitting there for months without action,” Sokoff said.
Most common MU parking citations
From August 2017 through mid-April 2018, MU issued 61,009 total parking citations. Tickets typically range from $10 to $25.
Donations for Citations
As of June 1, students and faculty are now able to get up to three parking citations waived each year by making a donation to Tiger Pantry. For each violation, 10 full-sized hygiene items or non-perishable food items need to be dropped by the MU Parking and Transportation Services office. This must be done within five days of receiving a citation, according to the office’s website.
Parking and transportation officials spent the spring semester brainstorming ways they could help students and faculty who are receiving citations while also giving back to the community, Sokoff said.
“It gives them the opportunity to give back to the university in a very real way,” he said.
By waiving three tickets per student or faculty member each semester, the office is forfeiting some of the funds that they normally would have received through writing citations.
“But that’s a cost we’re willing to forgo for the benefit of the university,” Sokoff said.
As an auxiliary department, the MU Parking and Transportation Services office is self-supporting, receiving no funds from the state or MU. A majority of its funding comes from permit sales, with money from citations supplementing its revenue.
“We typically start each year with less than $1,000 in our bank account,” Sokoff said. “So anything that we bring in, we’re pretty much mandated to spend.”
About 11,000 to 12,000 permits are purchased each academic year, with about the same amount being sold or renewed to faculty and staff, he said. Summer permit sales are typically at 3,000.
The money made from these permit sales and any citations written throughout the year is spent on improvements to roads, parking lots and parking garages on university property. While the MU Parking and Transportation Services office does earn enough revenue to pay its own bills and pay for any necessary campus improvements, it is not a significant source of revenue for the university as a whole.
“Typically we will spend anywhere from $200,000 to $400,000 every year just on summer improvements,” Sokoff said. One project for this summer is to finish improving the AV-14 parking lot, located on East Campus Drive and Ashland Road.
The MU Parking and Transportation Services office also funds the Tiger Line service and pays the full salaries and benefits of six MUPD officers, Sokoff said.
“I think a lot of people just think they sit on a pile of money and count, but that’s not really the case,” Seville said.