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Parking Services Gears up for Virtual Permits

Beginning this summer, cars on TU’s campus will no longer bear the trademark hang tags that dangle from the rearview mirrors of student, faculty and staff vehicles.  That’s because Parking and Transportation Services is implementing virtual parking permits for the 2011-2012 academic year.

Under the new program, permit holders will no longer receive tangible parking permits to place in their cars. Instead, individuals will use the Parking website to register the license plate numbers of any vehicles that they bring to campus. According to Parking & Transportation Services Director Pam Mooney, the new system allows permit holders to avoid the hassle of transferring a parking permit between cars.

“It’s a lot easier for permit holders because they aren’t going to get a ticket for forgetting to put their permit on the mirror,” Pam said. “As long as they’ve got the car registered in the system, they’re good to go.”

Pam says the great thing about the program is its versatility. Drivers no longer have to pay for visitor passes when they bring rental cars to campus—they simply have to register it online or call the Parking & Transportation Services Office, who can register it for them over the phone. But don’t think that multiple vehicle registrations means the ability to have multiple cars on campus at one time—enforcement under the new system is tighter than ever.

The virtual permits work hand-in-hand with license plate recognition (LPR) devices that enforce parking regulations. The devices are mounted on parking enforcement vehicles and used to scan license plate numbers as the vehicles drive through campus parking lots and garages. The scanned license plate numbers are cross-checked with the parking database to determine if each vehicle is associated with a valid permit for the parking area that it’s in. If the vehicle does not have a permit or is not in the proper location, the system signals the enforcement officer, who writes a ticket. If there are two vehicles located on campus for one permit holder, the system will signal the enforcement officer, who will cite both vehicles and tow at least one of them.

“Enforcement is way quicker and much more accurate with the LPR,” Pam said. “Right now it takes between three and four hours for an enforcement officer to check a garage on foot. Once we have LPR, it’ll be about an hour to an hour and a half. Better enforcement means better parking availability for paid permit holders.”

In addition to being easier to enforce, the virtual enforcement system reduces printing and mailing costs associated with the permits. In the past, Parking & Transportation Services printed approximately 20,000 permits per year and mailed between 10,000 and 12,000 of those. Though there will still be some printed permits for vendors and TU vehicles, Pam estimates that the printing and mailing costs of permits will be reduced from about $25,000 a year to less than $2,500.

The buying process for the virtual parking permits will remain the same for faculty and staff, however students will now be able to purchase permits as early as May and use their Bursar’s Account for the purchase.

“The goal is to make parking more convenient for permit holders and more efficient for the university,” Pam said.  “That’s the crux of everything we do.”

For more information on campus parking initiatives, go to http://www.towson.edu/parking.

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