As parking prices increase and space becomes limited, UTD students search for unconventional ways to park without paying.
Strategies for avoiding payment include sharing parking passes — parking under another person’s name — or avoiding enforcement crews altogether. The Mercury conducted a survey on parking avoidance with 83 student responses. 34% of respondents said that they had parked in a campus parking spot without the correct parking permit, and 21% of respondents said they shared a parking pass with another student, a violation of UTD policies for car permits. Four respondents specifically cited price as a motivator; the cheapest option, a green permit, costs $169 for a September to August term, but would require students to park further distances from campus buildings. Closer options are as expensive as $303 for a year of gold parking and $466 for a year with orange.
“It is frustrating to see so many individuals spend $300+ on parking passes and not be able to park in the spaces they paid for,” a respondent said. “It’s impossible to find parking anywhere but in green parking, but that defeats the purpose of all the other parking spots.”
UTD parking and transportation is self-funded, meaning parking structure development and maintenance draw their money from the passes purchased by staff, faculty and students. In the Aug. 9 Staff Council General Meeting, Aquino said that the debt from parking structures specifically could take up to 30 years to fully pay off.
“Citation issuance is our primary strategy to ensure parking compliance,” Aquino said.
Parking permits are purchased per student, so while each student can have two vehicles associated with a permit, only one of the two cars can be parked on campus at a time. According to Director of Transportation Cris Aquino, sharing permits would fall under “obtaining a permit from another,” which incurs a fine of $100 per violation.
“I do know people who have parked in spaces that are not the color that they’re allowed to be parking in,” accounting senior Alana Platt said. “And considering we’re all students, we do not have a lot of money, [and] it’s something that’s difficult to balance … I don’t think it’s something that’s ethical to do, but I think it’s an understandable action.”
Finance junior Virgil Houngbedji said that he understands if students can’t afford to pay, but believes parking fraud is ultimately not a good idea, as it could negatively impact UTD’s budget maintenance.
“In general, it’s just financial situations I would say,” Houngbedji said. “I don’t see a more compelling reason than not having the money to pay for it.”
Daniel Yahalom, a history senior and president of Comets for Better Transit, said that if UTD’s environment both forces students to drive and charges them for it, some amount of non-payment should be expected, and that creating more parking will only worsen the area’s car dependency.
“Instead, we should invest in what students repeatedly say they prefer: better sidewalks, bus routes, bus services, and affordable housing near campus,” Yahalom said. “It is unconscionable that conversations about the future of campus treat parking as the top priority while grassroots demand for comparatively affordable alternatives are routinely ignored.”
Last spring, UTD initially waitlisted 900 students who applied for on-campus housing, although more were placed into units over the summer. For those who look outside of campus, according to Zumper.com, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Richardson is $1,538, an unattainable price point for many college students. Platt said that she believes the solution to parking problems is to have more affordable on-campus housing, which eliminates the commuter pressure in the first place, saves space used for parking and is better for the environment.
“I think ultimately that’s a solution. How quickly is that gonna happen? Probably at the pace of molasses … A better solution is in the short term, just to have more grace with parking incidents … Just express kindness, have a little bit more patience, and honestly, it’s just a messed-up situation for all involved,” Platt said.