College plans parking overhaul and increases ticketing

A Public Safety officer at the college.

This year, students may have noticed an increase in the extent to which parking regulations are enforced by Public Safety. A more intense approach toward parking policies began to take shape after the college hired CHANCE Management Advisors, Inc., an advising firm based in Philadelphia, to evaluate the status of the school’s transport facilities as part of its work on the Campus Master Plan. The firm collaborated with a committee including faculty, staff and students, and their finished product, the Parking and Transportation Master Plan, was released in September 2013.

Following the release of the PTMP, the college created the Transportation and Parking Committee, which replaced the Car Authorization Committee and is currently overseen by Executive Assistant for Facilities and Services Paula Dale. According to Dale, the committee’s main focus is on finding ways to use Swarthmore’s resources efficiently, given that a system which makes it easy for students to rely on their own vehicles is more wasteful than one which includes lots of public transport options.

“The larger goals … are to ascertain how much parking the college really needs and find ways to encourage transportation alternatives to the one-driver-one-car model,” Dale said. “Ultimately, we hope to minimize the number of additional new parking spaces the college will need to build in the future.”

Because any construction of new parking lots would cost money and encroach on arboretum green space, most of the plan’s recommendations involve improving the organization of parking and transportation. Specifically, it advises dividing community, staff and student parking spaces more clearly and moving forward on initiatives to improve van service. Eventually, there might even be an effort to bring ZipCar to campus.

According to Director of Public Safety Mike Hill, “One of the main issues the committee discovered was that it was difficult to make an accurate assessment of parking needs for future planning without consistent enforcement.”

Because of this, the PTMP recommends “increased enforcement of parking regulations.”

Campus policy has always officially been to assign tickets to cars parked illegally. Tickets run from $10 to $50, and cars that display an illegal permit are to be booted or towed. According to policy, students who accrue more than two parking tickets in a year will have their permits revoked. However, students who rely on their cars for legitimate academic or personal reasons can discuss their situation with Assistant Dean for Residential Life Rachel Head, who oversees the allocation of permits, and are almost always allowed to continue keep their permit.

Head and Hill have both sent emails to the entire student body when changes to parking regulations occur, but students who miss these dispatches and believe they are parked legally may be surprised to return and find a ticket on their windshields. With this in mind, the PMTP suggests that after each change is introduced, there should be a grace period when Public Safety leaves informative flyers with new policies on offending cars instead of tickets. Any campus ticket can be appealed at Public Safety within five days of its issue.

Student drivers expressed frustration that the changes to parking policy have not included any plans to make parking easier for them. The PTMP does not recommend building new lots, so much of Public Safety’s crackdown is perceived as an overreaction to the consequences of the limited space.

“I think it’s understandable that Public Safety diligently tickets vehicles,” said Gabriella Capone ’14, who has had a car on campus since her freshman year and has been through the ticketing and appeals process many times. “Its a source of revenue.”

But she added that the school could be more accommodating. “Parking and vehicle mobility on this campus is pretty bad, so sometimes I think that Public Safety could take that into account.”

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