The Rutgers University Parking Gestapo

13 07 2007

Update: Compared to NYC parking prices, I suppose I should count my blessings…

I am starting to really hate Rutgers University. Outside of problems I’ve had with administrators, professors, and the “RU Screw,” I’ve just been fleeced out of $300 by the most evil entity within the whole of the Rutgers bureaucracy: Parking and Transportation Services. You see, since 2005 I have occasionally been late to class and instead of waiting for the slow and overcrowded buses (RU being so overcrowded that some students had to be put up in hotel rooms within the past year) I decided to drive to campus and park in the Cook/Douglass Parking Deck. There were plenty of spaces left open (so I wasn’t depriving anyone of a spot who had a parking pass), although I knew the risk of getting a parking ticket. Between Fall 2005 and Fall 2006, I received 3 parking tickets at $50 each (if you get a ticket in the city of New Brunswick it’s only $20) and decided not to pay them until I absolutely had to. No notices came, I was allowed to register for classes, and all seemed to be right with the world. I did receive two tickets this past semester, but I would have no problem paying for those being that the notice came during the semester in which I had been ticketed. I had a little reason to hope that I had been forgotten as I had heard that ParkTran forgives the first ticket each semester, but I was greatly mistaken.

Indeed, just before I was about to register for my fall classes I received a letter from ParkTran; the demanded $300, and until I could pay it there would be a “hold” on my account. I didn’t even have a spare $150, much less the total sum they wanted, and apparently they decided that they were going to hold all “offenses” of semesters past against me. Did I park in a mostly-empty parking deck without a tag? Yes, but it should be the job of ParkTran to keep track of their tickets and promptly inform students if they owe money, not hit them with a huge bill years after the fact. This week, however, I finally had enough money to pay them off, and my wife kindly went to the new office to try and get the fine reduced. She was told that students could no longer fight tickets nor get fines reduced, and we would have to pay the full $300. I was hoping that I would now be able to finally register for classes, but ParkTran being a bureaucracy, the hold on my account will not be removed until Tuesday.

[I’m sure others have their own tales of woe relating to the Parking/Transportation offices. Check out the Connie Willis story In the Late Cretaceous; I’m sure many of us could relate to Dr. Robert Walker.]

I know Rutgers has been short on money due to budget cuts and the like, but establishing a “Parking Gestapo” that hits students with such massive bills that cannot be fought or even reduced is inexcusable. The parking officers have been getting more and more rabid every year. It seems as if the administration decided that their entire deficit is going to made up from parking tickets, hitting students especially hard.

Between changing the name of my school from Cook College to “The School of Environmental and Biological Sciences” (the school had only been known as Cook College since 1973, mind you, a great dishonor to the memory of George H. Cook), budget cuts, and all the (for lack of a better term) B.S. that I’ve had to go through in pursuing my degree, I can’t say I recommend Rutgers. I worked so hard and long to get back in, but now that I’m here, I just want it all to be over.


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9 responses

13 07 2007
Cory Tucholski

Don’t do the crime if you can’t pay the fine. Hee hee hee.

On one hand, you admit that you did a bad thing. Do you think that a judge would accept arguments that a murder victim “just wasn’t a nice guy and that he didn’t have many friends, so killing him in cold blood was justified” argument? Cuz that’s the same thing that you’re trying to argue here: “I parked in the wrong spot because I was late for class, but it’s okay because there were still plenty of parking spots for those guys who actually did pay to park here.”

On the other hand, I have never and will never understand exactly why colleges feel that they have to rape students in uncomfortable bodily orifices about parking. With all the money we students pay in tuition, fees, and parking tickets, you’d think that the least they could do is provide adequate parking facilities. Or, rules that make sense. For example, I was once ticketed for parking in a visitor’s parking spot without a permit (permit for a visitor parking space? What!?) at a school that I didn’t even attend!

And what’s up with no appeal? Most schools at least let you argue your case. And you could have at least got one or two of those tickets knocked off the total price.

Outstanding parking fines should prevent you from graduating, but not for registering for classes. The reason? Simple: if you can’t afford to pay the tickets ($300), then you can’t register for classes ($3000+). Which is more beneficial to the university, the $300 or the $3000? Not letting a student register for classes means that they won’t get the $3000 for this semester, they won’t get the future $3000 increments until graduation, and they won’t see the $300 parking fine, either!

For an institution that is run by the academic and intellectual elite, they sure make some boneheaded decisions.

Good luck!

13 07 2007
laelaps

I appreciate the support Cory, although I found much to contest with the first part. You wrote:

“Do you think that a judge would accept arguments that a murder victim “just wasn’t a nice guy and that he didn’t have many friends, so killing him in cold blood was justified” argument? Cuz that’s the same thing that you’re trying to argue here: “I parked in the wrong spot because I was late for class, but it’s okay because there were still plenty of parking spots for those guys who actually did pay to park here.””

As far as I know, parking in the middle of an empty lot didn’t cause the death of anyone, so what you’re engaging in is Reductio ad absurdum. I don’t think I even did a “bad thing” and (like you mentioned) I fully admit to parking in the wrong spot. If I had been billed during that semester, I would have gladly paid. What I am finding fault with is the fact that the unviversity took no action at all and then slammed me with a large bill (preventing me from registering for classes) and left me no other option than to pay. I just think it’s really despicable that colleges try to milk students for all their worth in this fashion, and if we’ve done something wrong then they have a responsibility to notify us in a timely fashion; if they can’t be bothered for a year and a half, then why should I have to pay for it?

14 07 2007
Rickyrab, or Rovin' Ricky

Universities are rabid about parking for a few reasons. 1)Cars take up land. Land is expensive and universities are tired of wasting it on blacktop. Garages can be built, but are even MORE expensive. 2)Essentially reason 1, but applied to roads rather than parking space: traffic jams and gridlock are epidemic in some areas, particularly dense and crowded downtowns, like, say, New Brunswick, NJ. 3)There has been a movement to discourage car usage brewing among urban and transportation planners (but not necessarily developers or even politicians) for the past 20 years, due to reason 2, along with pollution from cars, suburban sprawl, denial of mobility to some parts of the population, etc. 4)Universities want to keep faculty they’ve already hired, and many of the professors (not necessarily all, mind you) drive to work and want parking spaces close to work. This leads to preferential parking allocation to professors at the expense of students. (Note: As a student of Rutgers who is also the son of a professor, I’ve been on both sides of this coin.) 5)(and here’s where the stupidity kinda begins) In the case of Rutgers, parking demand is such that a lot of commuters want to park on College Ave Campus. This leads to misallocation of parking space to commuters at the expense of College Ave campus residents, while residents of other campuses get parking space close to their dorms. There ought to be less space on College Ave campus for commuters and more for residents (particularly 30-minute spaces for them to unload groceries before shoehorning their cars off to less crowded areas). Such a realignment would encourage Rutgers to expand bus services. 6)Assignment of parking spaces to specific dorms apparently flows from the idea that parking should be convenient, unless, apparently, you’re living on the CAC in New Brunswick. That’s not fair to those of us who like to live on the Avenue – it sends a message that Busch campus and Livingston and Douglass and Cook are all “more important than” CAC, and it discourages living on CAC itself. Fairness would require assignment of spaces at random for both residents and commuters, unless we want towering parking decks all over CAC (and, yes, it IS that cramped). (end of rant) Please note that while reducing parking would help to reduce traffic, improving transit would also help, and Rutgers ought to try to use its parking fees and other costs of car usage to help fund its transit services – along with pointing out reasons for parking fees and benefits that stem from those parking fees. (Admittedly, I am not unbiased in this regard – one of my major professors happens to be the bicycle-and-foot-travel favoring John Pucher. I’m more of a transit enthusiast. To each his own, shall we say?)

14 07 2007
Rickyrab, or Rovin' Ricky

And another thing. Rutgers and New Brunswick Parking Authority aren’t really working closely together enough. If they were, then parking fines wouldn’t be $20 on the street and $50 on campus! (The message that sends: “Park on the streets, where there is less parking space, and it’s cheaper to do it illegally than on campus, where there are several parking lots!”) (To be fair, one should note that the missing-ticket fee in NBPA parking decks is only $15.00.) Furthermore, Rutgers shouldn’t be enforcing fines and tickets just for the sake of enforcement (or just for the money), which is what it appears to be doing. It should be enforcing with a goal that benefits students, faculty, and staff, and not just its endowment: parking enforcement, appropriately used, can be a means of traffic management. Instead of imposing rules like one uses a caveman’s club or a sledgehammer, they ought to be informing people of which spaces are “available”, via electronic signs, and directing them, so that traffic and parking space is very rarely congested, and that people can travel freely and conveniently. Pricing would be based on times of heavy traffic; for example, Game Day in football season would be very expensive, while intersession parking would be quite cheap. In short, parking pricing could potentially be used as congestion pricing.

14 07 2007
laelaps

Thank you for your in-depth comments Ricky; you definitely know a lot more about the subject than I do, although I generally agree with what you’ve put here. I know RU is under a bit of strain in each of the areas you mentioned, I just don’t think it’s particular fair to get slammed with a $300 bill that I can fight, get reduced, etc. because ParkTran couldn’t get around to billing me until more than a year after the fact (preventing me from signing up for my fall classes). I’m definitely not going to take risks with parking again, though, and I’m going to try and take as many classes on College Ave as I can (as I live just two blocks from the student center and can walk). In general, I’m just upset at how frequently and vigorously I’ve been given the RU Screw, but I definitely appreciate your detailed explanation of why that is.

15 07 2007
Rickyrab, or Rovin' Ricky

Well, thanks, and you’re welcome… but that’s not the only part of the Screw… it probably comes with being a big university (I wonder how the U. of California and other state schools in bigger states deal with their size)!

19 08 2010
John Deltuvia

The current budget situation has nothing to do with the mismanagement of Rutgers parking services. They mismanage it because they can, and because no one tries to stop them or plans appropriate parking facilities for a university the size of Rutgers. This has been going on for at least 30 years.

-John Deltuvia (LC ’85)

10 11 2010
Monica

They have no incentive not to give crazy high tickets, if you think about it… Withholding course registration, transcript release, and graduation is a pretty major problem, and sadly I would give somebody $300 if they held a gun to my transcript, too, because at the end of the day it’s worth a lot more than that to me. (value of graduation/transcript release = [income potential with college degree] – [income potential without college degree] which is arguably a million dollars or more). So Rutgers students are going to pay these things, whether they like it or not, and as long as students are paying them, ParkTran will continue the raping. Just to give you an idea of how bad it is, I lifeguard on Busch campus year-round, and because ParkTran expects us to take the bus to work (which there is no bus during winter, spring, and summer breaks) I have to drive and take the tickets. So basically there is no intelligent reason why anybody would work on campus during breaks – but we risk it anyway because we don’t feel like dealing with the transaction costs of finding a new job. Maybe this winter break I’ll waitress instead and make hundreds more than I would lifeguarding. Hey, RU Screw, Screw You Too.

2 12 2010
Petrol Leaf Blower

i would alway prefer hotel rooms with flannel sheets and cotton beddings, i love the feel of those fabric `*`

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