Ticketing in paid parking lot causes a stir

In a move that has upset several MSU staff member and students, University Police (UPD) recently began to issue $30 tickets to cars that are parked in the paid lot across from the SUB after 8 p.m.

 Although the paid parking lot has always closed at 8 p.m., previously cars parked in the lot after that time could leave without paying any fees or being issued any tickets. The paid parking lot allows people to park for free for the first 30 minutes; for 30 – 60 minutes the price is $3 and then it increases by $0.75 each hour, with a full day costing $7.50.

Chief of University Police Robert Putzke said the change occurred because people were taking advantage of the policy and waiting to leave until after 8 p.m. to avoid paying. “We have about 230 spaces in that parking lot and we had begun to notice that … more than half of those spots were still full of people waiting till after 8 p.m. That is is considered a theft of services and is an offense against a law in the State of Montana.”

UPD spent around three weeks — the week before spring break, during spring break and after spring break — putting up signs that stated the changes and issuing warnings to people parked in the lot after 8 p.m.

After the three week period, UPD began issuing $30 tickets. Putzke emphasized that parking services is trying to accommodate everyone’s needs: “We know that some people might want to park before the lot closes and stay late, so we have the option to prepay so everyone can stay in the lot as long as the need.”

In response, a petition titled “Repeal the ordinance of ticketing cars in the pay lot after 8 p.m.” was published on Change.org and signed by 200 people. The petition has a short blurb saying, “Closing the pay lot, and ticketing students after 8 p.m., goes against the university’s commitment to student safety and academic success. Many student have classes, exams or work past the hour of 8 p.m. Such a policy does not benefit the MSU community and will affect not only MSU students but also many residents of Bozeman.”

MSU Parking Services responded to the petition, emphasizing that there have been no changes in policy. “No changes in regulations or hours of operations have been made this year in the pay parking lot. The only change has been to enforce existing regulations during periods the lot is closed.”

Nate Newell, a junior who works at the Ask Us desk, played a vital role in getting a petition written and published online. He added that the Ask Us staff has fielded numerous calls related to the new parking policies.

Newell listed student safety as an important concern as some students are now parking farther away from campus, forcing them to walk farther late at night. “It seems as if there is an insensitivity and lack of care related to student safety … you have to ask why is this happening and why are they enforcing this when more than two thirds of the school year is over,” Newell said.

Director of the SUB Butch Damberger addressed the issue of student safety. “Student safety is a legitimate and valid concern. I wish people would take advantage of the police escort service. We realize that some students may not feel comfortable taking advantage of that, but it is an option.”

Damberger also addressed the inopportune timing of the change. “It is difficult to make a drastic change in the middle of a semester, but they did it right by giving people ample warning of the changes.”

    Anyone wishing to park in the paid parking lot and stay after 8 p.m. can pre-pay to stay later and will not be ticketed. More information regarding parking services can be found online at: montana.edu/police/parkingservices.shtml or by contacting UPD at 406-994-2121.