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ASG forum addresses perennial parking problems

By Catherine Couretas
On November 19, 2009

Continuing Associated Student Government's (ASG) series of off-campus forums, students gathered in Harrison Hall Wednesday night to learn more about off-campus parking from Oxford Mayor Prue Dana and Bob Holzworth, head of parking for the city.

Matthew Ciccone, ASG secretary for off-campus affairs, said he hoped these forums would bring students together with people they would not normally contact.

"We're really trying to build those bridges there," Ciccone said.

Holzworth said one out of nine calls that come into the communications center have to do with parking, and of the city's 55 employees, 20-some have to do with parking.

"We realized we really need to spend some time on it," Holzworth said. "We want everyone in this city to understand parking. We issue a lot of tickets and I wish we could decrease that number."

Holzworth said the city acquired an Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) system, which reads license plates and compares them to plates with unpaid tickets while making sure cars have not overstayed their welcome in parking spaces.

Cars parked on Oxford streets must be moved every 72 hours, Holzworth said. He added cars violating this rule in the past were usually moved only because of specific complaints.

"We didn't usually go out and look, but now we will with the ALPR," Holzworth said.

Holzworth said the city gives a lot of vehicles the "boot" and tows quite a few as well. With more than 820 parking meters and more than 200 lane miles of road to cover, Holzworth said workers for the city stay busy.

Dana talked about the relationship between the city of Oxford and Miami University when it came to parking.

"We're trying to communicate with the city and the university, and it's never been better," Dana said.

George MacDonald, assistant director of parking services, also attened to teach students about parking on campus. His No. 1 tip for students to avoid parking citations on campus was to get a university parking permit.

He said the "log in" policy that many students do not know about could prevent many citations. If a student needs to run a quick errand, they can park somewhere for 15 to 20 minutes even where parking is not available for their permit color.

"For students who have a valid permit, you can call us and say I need to run into my residence hall, I need to run into this building, and that's OK," MacDonald said.

MacDonald emphasized students should not put their flashers on while parking somewhere they should not be.

"If you're parking on our campus, I just want to know who you are and why you're there," MacDonald said. "I don't want you to put your flashers on. That says 'Write me a ticket,'" MacDonald said the log in policy is available up to four times per semester per student.

In total, MacDonald said the university writes about 36,000 citations per year, but about half of those (48 percent), are no charge warnings.

What students may not know is even though their car may never have been registered with the university, off-campus students who park on campus will continue to be cited and the vehicle can be immobilized after three citations.

MacDonald encouraged off-campus students to buy a university permit, at the cost of $50 per semester or $100 per academic year. At the midpoint of the semester, the price drops to $25 for the remainder of the semester.

"We believe the permit is affordable," MacDonald said.

Also, off-campus students who must leave cars in Oxford during university breaks can buy a $5 break pass to keep cars in the Ditmer lot and avoid breaking the 72-hour rule on Oxford streets.

Holzworth encouraged students to sign up for Nixle, an emergency program that sends out notifications via text message and e-mail, at http://www.cityofoxford.org.


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