Parking fees baffle drivers
Traffic fine prices listed on the UH Department of Public Safety Web site were updated Friday, five months after prices increased.
"The citation fines were changed this September and I can’t remember when the last update was … maybe a year ago," UHDPS Parking Manager Paul Lozano said.
A list of updated parking fines, permit sales and statistics for Spring 2008 is available here.
Parking enforcement issued 1,497 parking citations to UH students, faculty, staff and visitors during the first week of parking enforcement this semester, according to documents obtained from Parking and Transportation Services. Until recently the fines listed online and in the parking brochures were incorrect.
About 44 percent of citations issued were because a permit was not displayed during the week of Jan. 28 to Feb. 3. During the same period, 15.1 percent were issued because of incorrect use of the permit, such as parking in the wrong lot, and 13.5 percent accounted for overtime parking at meters.
On Feb. 4, the UHDPS Web site showed incorrect prices for parking fines. The UHDPS Web site. A parking brochure obtained from the UH parking services office in the Ezekiel W. Cullen Building also listed incorrect prices.
Director of Parking and Transportation Services Robert Browand said he was unaware of the inconsistencies in the pricing of parking citations.
†"(The maps) should have been thrown out, and I will have them removed from the counter immediately," Browand said.
The Web site was updated Friday.
"That was just an error on my part," Lozano said. "I should have gone back and checked. This is the first time it has changed since I have been here, so it was a failure on my part to go in there and change the pricing on (the Web site)."
Students said the lack of communication worsened the situation.
"It’s false advertisement," economics senior Danny Hyde said.
He said he purchased a permit after he found a $53 fine on his windshield for not displaying a permit in a student lot.
"I’m not happy that I was not properly notified of the price changes, especially when I saw that the prices were different online." Hyde said. "We deserve to be informed through either a brochure or by e-mail."
The fine listed on the Web site said $40 when Hyde was ticketed, but he had to pay roughly 25 percent more.
"I was like, ’53 bucks?’ I expected maybe a $20 or $30 fine," he said.
Media production senior Johamna St. Romain said that Parking and Transportation Services is not providing enough services for students.
"Many times it can take up to 20 minutes for a police escort to arrive, during which time you are just waiting outside by yourself, which is also dangerous," she said.
Students annually receive a post card containing parking and permit information at the beginning of the school year, which advertises the sale of parking permits, Browand said, although no e-mails are sent out.
"It’s not to say we won’t do something like that," Browand said. "I’m not opposed to sending out e-mails."
The standard semester student permit costs $79, according to UHDPS, while the fine for parking on the lot without a permit costs $53. The amount can be halved if paid within the first 48 hours after a ticket is issued, but it doubles to $106 if not paid within three weeks.
"The half-price discount is just a way to get people to pay quickly," Browand said. "You get a bonus for taking care of your business quickly. It’s like if you don’t pay your electric bill in time, they charge you a late fee."
Students have 21 days to contest a ticket by filling out an appeal form obtained from parking services, Browand said. Once an appeal is filed, the student should get a response within 10 business days, he said. If the appeal is denied, then the fine is frozen at the original price of the ticket.
Students can also file a second appeal at the Dean of Students Office, and cases will be heard if additional evidence warrants a change in the verdict, Browand said.
"If you don’t pay within 21 days, (the fine) gets transferred to your UH account and you can pay through the PeopleSoft system," Browand said. "If (students) don’t pay, they will get stops placed on their account, so they cannot enroll or get transcripts."
If a payment plan is necessary, it can be arranged in the bursar’s office, or at the Office of Student Financial Services located in Room 124 of the Welcome Center.
While parking services controls the sale of permits and the payment of fines, UHDPS enforces ticketing.
Browand said regulations must be enforced to prevent individuals from parking without a permit.
"If we don’t go out and rigorously enforce the rules, then violators will be taking spaces away from those who pay," Browand said. "Hopefully, through citations, it educates the person that they have to come in and pay for their permit."
The $5.4 million parking services budget is overseen by the Transportation and Parking Advisory Committee, comprised of five students, four faculty and three staff members who decide which projects and services need to be improved or provided.
In 2006-2007, 22.4 percent, or $1.2 million, of the Parking and Transportation budget came from parking fines, according to documents obtained from Parking Services.
The majority of the budget, 57.3 percent, or $3.1 million, came from student permit sales.
"Of the goals that we talked about for 2009’s funding increase, the top priority is to get a second parking garage built, so we have to come up with the funding for that," Browand said. "The money will come from the tickets we issue and the permits that we sell. We expect permit prices to increase 7 to 8 percent."