New commuter regulation causes a stir

September 28, 2012 | 11 a.m.

The Office of Security and Safety takes a new approach to an old rule

News | Kaylin Creason for The Clarion

New commuter regulation causes a stir

For the first time, Bethel commuters automatically receive the hang-tag parking permits. | Erin Gallagher

Effective this year, Bethel automatically charges commuters for parking permits – a fact that has brought up questions among those who drive to school. 

The $90 parking permit fee is billed to commuters’ student accounts “in the same way you get charged for a lab fee or the student activity fee,” says Nathan Freeburg, Associate Dean for Leadership and Community Development. 

To revise the parking permit policy, Freeburg worked closely with Andrew Luchsinger, Chief of Security and Safety at Bethel.

The primary purpose of the new policy is to enforce a rule that already existed. “Commuters have always been required to have a permit,” Luchsinger explained. In the past, many commuters ignored this rule. “Over half of commuter students weren't registering their vehicles,” Freeberg said. 

As a result of the policy change, commuters are no longer required to register their vehicles. Commuter vehicles will now be identified by rearview mirror “hang-tag” permits.

The change came after many complaints concerning the window sticker permits. In years past, changing a vehicle required peeling off the permit, bringing it in, obtaining a new one or calling in the change on a daily basis. 

"That system was just not working for our community,” Luchsinger explained. Hang-tag permits can be transferred easily from vehicle to vehicle, making it easier for students to drive different vehicles to school. 

Another aim of automatically assigning permits to commuters is to “reduce the ‘adversarial’ role that security may have had in the past with some community members,” Luchsinger said. The office’s website reports that “the Office of Security and Safety reserves the right to ticket, immobilize and tow vehicles, at the owner's expense, which are parked on campus in violation of any parking regulation.” 

Parking permit violations include altering or forging a permit, improper display of a permit and lack of a permit. First time offenders usually receive warnings for their violations, but recurring offences can incur fines as high as $300.

Security hopes to avoid some of these incidences by assigning parking permits. “By changing the process to be an automatic one, we are less likely to have to enforce the regulations through ticketing and immobilization of vehicles – saving those owners time and additional fees,” Luchsinger said. 

To many commuters, the change has been a welcome one. Freeburg and Luchsinger both report that the hang-tag permits have received a lot of positive feedback. Others appreciate the fairness of the new policy in demanding that all commuters pay for a permit. 

“Just because you didn’t know there was a form to fill out, or you knew and purposely chose not to, doesn’t mean that somebody who’s doing it the right way should be punished,” says senior Andrea Kanani, who has been commuting to Bethel and paying parking permit fees since her freshman year. 

On the other hand, a number of commuters are less than delighted by the policy change. Many would rather risk getting fined than pay the $90 fee every semester. Others do not want to pay for something they don’t use. 

Not all commuters drive themselves to school. Many prefer to bike, take the bus or carpool with friends or family members. “Assuming that all off-campus students are driving is unfair,” says senior David Krolak, who carpools. “Between two people [in a carpool] you’re only going to be taking up one spot all year.”

There are some exceptions to the new rule. Students who purchase Metro College Bus Passes receive free parking permits. Commuters also have the option to petition the policy, though only two students have done so. Other concerns are being dealt with as they come. 

Parking permits are available for pick up in HC103. 

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