By Laura Mazzenga
INDIANA, Pa. — It’s 10:05 a.m., Feb. 23, a Monday morning. Half a dozen Indiana University of Pennsylvania students stand in line in front of Stephanie A. Boehmig. All are waiting to use the pay-by-space machine at the Grant Street parking garage.
The people punch the machine’s buttons. The machine beeps back, spitting tickets. The line inches forward. Now it’s 10:07. Three minutes until class starts.
Boehmig bails out of the line and hopes for the best. The odds of receiving a parking violation are not in her favor.
“Of course, I got a ticket,” Boehmig reported in a Feb. 25 interview at her off-campus apartment. “I tried to explain what happened, but the police still made me pay it.”
Boehmig, a senior business major, said she has noticed a big change in parking at IUP over the preceding four years. More parking spaces seem reserved for commuters and staff now, Boehmig said, and the Grant Street garage is the only place where she can find a space.
A $10 fine is issued if a car is parked illegally or past the metered time, according to IUP’s Web site. The fine increases to $15 after five days, a 50 percent increase.
And the fines soon may increase even more. On Jan. 15, the governing board of the State System of Higher Education voted 11-2 to increase parking fines. Thus, Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities, including IUP, are now permitted to charge as much as $50 for each parking violation. For IUP, that would represent a 400 percent hike.
Jessica E. Carson, president of IUP’s Student Government Association and a student member of the SSHE board, voted against the increase.
“I stressed how $25 to the majority of college students equates to about two weeks or even a month’s worth of groceries,” Carson said in a Feb. 12 email interview.
Carson said she fears the hike is a strategy to increase profits rather than to change behaviors.
“By no means should an educational institution such as IUP have the liberty to increase its financial revenue by increasing parking fines,” Carson said.
“It’s definitely a money-making scheme,” said Boehmig, a marketing major. “It’s always about money.”
William P. Montgomery, director of the campus public-safety department, said the fines would not increase during the spring 2009 semester.
“The Parking Advisory Committee will meet this semester to decide whether or not to increase parking violation fines,” Montgomery said in a Feb. 24 interview at his campus-police office. “If there is an increase, it won’t be enforced until next semester.”
Montgomery added that student comments would be invited.
“We need to listen to the general discussion about it,” Montgomery said. “We also need to listen to students.”
IUP student Erica L. Nigro said campus parking shortages affect more than the affected parkers.
“I’ve had problems with parking, but most of the people I talk to seem to have the same problems.” Said Nigro, a senior family consumer science major, during a Feb. 18 interview in the Hadley Union Building.
Parking problems have caused Nigro to arrive late to class, which she said it is distracting to professors and students.
Montgomery sympathized and offered a suggestion.
“Students waste time and gas driving around for 40 minutes looking for parking spots,” Montgomery said. “It’s easier to just drive to the Robertshaw parking lot and take a bus to class.”
Three buses run between 7:10 a.m. and 10 p.m., said Montgomery, and they pick up passengers 6-7 minutes.
Also, about 100 metered spaces along Pratt Drive and Grant Street will open to students once the campus’ ongoing student-housing construction project is completed, said Montgomery. More parking spaces near the tennis courts and at Robertshaw also are planned.
That would be good news for Boehmig.
“Once there is more parking available on campus,” Boehmig said, “maybe I’ll actually make it to class on time.”
Laura Mazzenga, a 2009 graduate of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania journalism program, is from Souderton.
Chris Scartelli added reporting to this story. Scartelli, a 2009 graduate of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania journalism program, is from Clarks Summit.
Sidebar: Parking Fines
On May 22, Bill Montgomery, director of public safety at IUP, said no decision on raising fines for campus parking violations had yet been made.
And if fines were to hiked, he added, they might not increase to $50.
“The rate can slide,” Montgomery wrote in an email interview. “We would have the freedom to set the rate anywhere between the current $10 to $50.”