Oh, Barnacles: Shining a light on UH’s parking issues

A Barnacle placed on a car. While Barnacles were a hot topic on social media to begin the new semester, the problem with parking on campus is Parking and Transportation Services is forced to be self-funded. | Courtesy of Parking and Transportation Services

Parking and Transportation Services in December began using Barnacles, a device put on the windshield of cars to keep them from moving. The Barnacles are put on cars with multiple parking citations and no permits.

This is not only unfair to students unable to afford parking passes but is also part of a larger problem of how PTS is completely self-funded. 

The Barnacles were brought to the limelight by a student who tweeted a picture of one on her car. In her caption, she said the University lacked affordable campus parking. She then proceeded to crowdfund for the cost to remove the Barnacle.

The tweet went viral and students were understandably outraged. 

Here are some facts about the Barnacles from Parking and Transportation Services. The Barnacles are put on cars with five or more citations with no permit.

Barnacles cost only $75 to remove, which is $25 less than the cost to tow the student’s car, UH spokesperson Chris Stipes said. Additionally, students must also pay a $200 hold fee, which is refunded once the Barnacle is returned.

The Barnacle is arguably more convenient than towing because the car owner doesn’t have to find a way to get to their towed car. 

If a student cannot immediately pay the $200 deposit and $75 to remove the Barnacle, there are payment plans, Stipes said. He also said there are still permits available for purchase at the Parking and Transportation Services customer service locations and if a student can’t pay immediately they can sign up for a payment plan.

Since they removed towing and have payment plans, PTS seems to have implemented the Barnacles to make it easier for students. However, they didn’t succeed.

Since December, 37 people have been Barnacled, with an average of nine citations with no permit, Stipes said. With that many people being Barnacled in only a month, it’s clear PTS still has an issue with affordability.

If a student cannot afford a permit, they probably can’t afford to take off a Barnacle in a short amount of time either.

While PTS offers payment plans there begs the question of why parking is so expensive in the first place?

The explanation of outrageous prices and Barnacles points to a larger systemic issue.

As an auxiliary service, PTS doesn’t receive any state or University funding. They are self-funded so to pay their employees and pay off the debt of building parking garages they make money by selling permits.

This explains why permits are so expensive. Because PTS doesn’t get any funding, they’re required to charge high prices for permits. Students can’t afford these permits, they park illegally, get citations, get Barnacled and so on. 

It’s ridiculous that a department at a public institution does not receive any state or school funding. This is not because UH can’t afford to fund parking.

UH can spend $30.4 million on expanding the Hilton Hotel on campus. It can pay the head football coach $4 million a year. Auxiliary services are self-funded, but since UH clearly has enough money, they should be allowed to send some of it to UH Parking so that students can park their cars.

Something UH can do is seek out private donors to fund PTS. This could lower permit prices for students or maybe even provide money for parking scholarships. However, to make sure that prices stay consistently affordable for all students, UH would have to be able to put money into services like parking. 

No student should have to crowdfund to park at their own school.

In order for students to be able to afford parking permits and for the Barnacles to stop, UH should be allowed to allocate funds to PTS. This system where students’ out of pocket money is the sole funding of auxiliary services needs to change. Otherwise, prices will just keep getting higher and Barnacles will continue to be stuck to windshields.

Opinion writer Anna Baker is an English sophomore who can be reached at [email protected]

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