Hanton: Iowa State parking horror stories

Rick Hanton

Parking on the Iowa State campus — what a nightmare. I’m quite sure that if I got a group of seniors in an auditorium and asked those who have received parking tickets on campus to raise their hands, those with their hands down would be in the minority. Just about everyone that drives a vehicle on campus has purposefully or accidentally violated a parking lot rule at some time or another.

I usually try not to drive or park on campus before the school day is done, because that is just asking for trouble, but yesterday I figured I would try to stop by the Iowa State Daily office in time to make our daily budget meeting after spending a few hours at the career fair. I figured I could park at a metered spot outside Hamilton Hall, run in to see the end of budget or talk with my co-editor, and then I would retreat back to the safety of Frederiksen Court (parking lot 112), change clothes, and do the next thing on my list for the day.

As it happened, I missed the budget meeting, but stuck around for a bit to help the new Opinion page designer get on her feet. After spending some time helping her and a few minutes chatting with the other staff in the room I looked at my watch and realized that it was a few minutes after 5 p.m. I knew my 30-minute meter would run out around 5, so I quickly hurried out the door to move my car away from the meter. But alas, I was too late. A nasty yellow envelope had already appeared, citing a meter violation at 4:56 p.m., likely mere seconds after the 30-minute meter expired.

So now here I am, paying a total of $10.25 for 35 minutes of parking when I would have happily plugged the meter at the beginning of this mess for 60 minutes (50 cents) to give myself leeway — if I could. So why, why parking division are there so many 30-minute meters on campus? Would 60-minute meters kill you? They might even allow a student to rush in via car and attend a full class without having to duck out to feed the meter.

I realize that the meter times are normally very short for a reason, but surely there are better options than giving students absolutely no help or leeway with the meters. If you look at the normal police department speeding ticket, checkboxes for “miles over” usually don’t include the 0-5 miles over the limit even though police can technically ticket you for that small violation. Apparently no small “fudge factor” exists as part of how our Parking Division operates. You better have your car moved by minute 30, the 1800th second after you put the coin in the meter, or else.

Another option I like as a computer-engineering student is the idea of building smarter meters. Our campus is covered in Wi-Fi, so it would be ridiculously simple to simply build a solar-powered parking meter that could hold the cell phone number of its current “customer” and send you a text a couple minutes before it expires. If the meter’s security and payment systems were good enough, perhaps it could allow you to text it a code to pay for a time extension if you need a few more minutes.

I simply don’t understand why it is beyond the abilities of the parking division to notify the owners of vehicles with ISU tags that they are getting ticketed for parking space violations. A friend of mine, now graduated, had an experience during his sophomore year where at the end of a weekend during the winter he parked his car with the proper permits in the Maple-Willow-Larch parking lot, down the hill from our residence in the Old RCA area. After a week’s worth of classes, he returned to the lot to go out the following weekend only to find his car missing. After some digging, he found out that he had accidentally parked in a reserved row of the lot, one row away from where he could legally park (lines are harder to read in the winter). So after ticketing his car for 5 consecutive days, the parking division eventually had his car towed — costing him hundreds of dollars in tickets and fees to get it back — all for an honest mistake.

I think that if every American did their job with the vigor of the ISU parking division, we might have been out of our recession months ago. But seriously, lighten up. Do us all a favor and help us get our car in the right place if you can rather than penalizing us for leaving it in the wrong place at the wrong time. And if you, the reader, have your own story about the horrors of parking around campus, I encourage you to share them with us online or as a message to [email protected]. I hope that one day Iowa State can reach a happy medium between strict regulation that provides open spaces on campus and lax enforcement that prevents newcomers from finding any place to park. Maybe it’s as simple as adding a few minutes to the meters.