Monday afternoon, the Ole Miss Department of Parking and Transportation announced changes to the parking policy on campus as they move toward a new license plate recognition software (LPR). The software is designed to detect license plate numbers of vehicles parked on campus through a mounted camera on an officer’s vehicle. The vehicle will drive through aisles and scan the plates rather than an issued permit. The switch to the LPR system is all about efficiency according to Director of Parking, Mike Harris.
“By going to LPR, we could lower the number of officers doing that service and use them in other areas,” Harris said. “You could put two vehicles out on campus, and they could cover campus in the same amount of time that ten could do it because they’re just driving through the lot instead of walking the lot because the camera is reading those plates as you drive by.”
The most notable change for those parking on campus will be that backing into a parking space will be ticketable offense starting in July. Harris noted that when a vehicle is backed it, it will slow down the LPR system. The first offense will come with a warning. After the warning, the citation will be $25 for a second offense (warning being the first), $50 for the third offense, and $75 for all subsequent offenses.
“If you’re backed into a spot it cripples that efficiency. If the officers have to stop, get out, and put the license plate number in, it slows that efficiency down,” Harris said.
Harris recognizes that there may be some pushback to the new rule changes, but asks for cooperation, and that in time it may subside.
“Change is always difficult, but that’s why we wanted to get ahead of this before it goes into affect in July. I’m 100 percent certain that people don’t back into every space they park in. There are areas around town where they have to pull in, our spaces are a standard width so they can pull into them and we know they’ll fit. It’s just what people are accustomed to, and it will take some time to adjust,” Harris said.
The Ole Miss community has quickly responded to the new rule change with strong opposition. A petition was created on Monday afternoon and already has over 1,400 signatures on change.org. The description of the petition points to frustrations with the new policy and the rising costs of parking on campus.
“This new policy is an unnecessary added burden to an already burdensome process. The potential for avoidable wrecks that would take place while trying to park forwards into a small spot for some students as well as the overall prospect of being told how to park is not a well thought out policy for the school to impose in the best interest of current and new students. Let’s help the university correct this misstep before the school year starts.”
Responses to the petition include students, faculty members and even parents.
The shift to the LPR will save the department around $100,000 a year due to the lack of permits, but due to the construction of new lots, the parking garage, and other projects, the cost of parking won’t decrease. While the price won’t go down Harris mentioned it might limit potential increases.
“As we continue to build lots and overlay streets, this money saved will allow us to ensure we don’t raise parking rates any more than we need to. It helps to reduce the increase, not to say there won’t be an increase,” Harris said.
The LPR system will allow real-time updates to the Parker App by scanning parking lots for open spaces. Harris is looking forward to the data that the new system will provide for everyone on campus.
“It counts empty spaces in lots and feeds that back to our software and we can use that to update the app to show where open parking is. It gives us a utilization number of how many people are on campus at any given time. It gives us a lot of different data points that we can look at to try and move to a more efficient model,” Harris said.
The new rules will go into effect this July, while the new LPR system will go into effect in 2018. Harris said that this year will be about getting people acclimated to the new rules before the new system is in place. In 2018 the department will operate with both the LPR system and permits before dropping permits altogether in 2019.
Steven Gagliano is the managing editor of HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.