A petition demanding changes to the campus parking policies is circulating online. As of Wednesday, the petition had been signed by 844 supporters, and over 150 individuals have left comments voicing their concerns and frustrations with Parking Services.
The petition, addressed to President John Simon, requests the election of a student board to discuss and modify parking regulations on a regular basis to create more practical policies and to restructure parking violation fines. It also requests full disclosure of the financial information related to Parking Services.
Katie Kiewel, ’15, created the petition after meeting the founder of change.org, the website through which the petition was organized. Kiewel said she would not have created the petition as a student because of possible retaliation from the administration.
“It was fear from the administration that inhibited me from doing something to better the community,” Kiewel said. “My goal is to unite the voice of students and alumni who believe in making positive change on campus by amending Lehigh’s parking policies to support the needs of students, staff and visitors.”
Although there are both undergraduate and graduate students serving on the Parking Appeals Committee, there is no student-selected board to assist in creating or amending parking policies.
“We are looking at expanding the conversation to including parking with the Transportation Committee of Student Senate,” wrote Sharon Field, the manager of Parking Services, in an email. Field had planned a meeting with Student Senate this week to review the themes of the petition, listen to their concerns and discuss ideas for Parking Services.
An on-campus, student-parking permit is $400, and Garrett Santini, ’18, signed the petition because he said parking remains limited on campus. He said there are few spaces that do not require spending additional money because they have meters.
“If they can’t make parking more available, they could make parking permits cheaper,” Santini said. “The permit was $350 last year, and the price went up without any improvement to the parking situation. An extra $50 does not account for inflation.”
Students are not the only individuals frustrated with Parking Services.
“There are alumni who choose not to donate because of their experiences with Parking Services,” Kiewel said. “Young alumni giving impacts Lehigh’s national ranking, which magnifies the importance of student acceptance and autonomy over policies that directly impact the student body.”
Parking has become an issue for students living off campus as well because up to four or five students may reside in an off-campus house, but only two parking permits may be issued per residence, according to the Bethlehem Parking Authority.
Bethlehem Parking Authority ordinance 534.06 states, “The Parking Authority shall develop, from time to time, regulations to provide for students residing in Residential Permit Parking areas who are operators of motor vehicles not registered in the appropriate Residential Permit Parking area; provided, however, that said permits shall not exceed two (2) per residential address.”
Kevin Livingston, the executive director of the Bethlehem Parking Authority, said although students are limited to a number of spaces, Bethlehem residents may have an unlimited number of permits per residence.
“There is definitely limited space on the street,” Livingston said.
“Bethlehem permits cost $50 and this year 374 student parking permits have been sold to students from Lehigh, Moravian (College) and DeSales (University),” Jeremy Alleshouse, the operations manager of the Bethlehem Parking Authority, wrote in an email.
Alleshouse said the Bethlehem Parking Authority issued 68,374 violations, and expired meters accounted for 41 percent of these violations last year. A Bethlehem fine for overtime meter parking or parking in the wrong meter zone is $10, while the fine for these violations at Lehigh is $25.
Field said Lehigh Parking Services issues tickets as violations occur, and the enforcement staff is assigned to different regions of the campus every day.
“Last year, 23 percent of the violations were appealed and the appeals committee granted 60 percent of that number,” Field wrote. “This year 20 percent of the violations have been appealed and the appeals committee granted 49 percent so far. There are 86 appeals still pending.”
No financial information regarding the revenue from Parking Services has been released. Field, however, plans to discuss this with Student Senate.
“Using a conservative model, I can confidently say that Parking Services is raking in more than a million dollars in revenue annually from parking violations and permit fees,” Kiewel said.
Revenues generated from parking fees, permits and fines are reserved for buses and various parking and transportation related plans, according to Field. Additional revenue is used for lot maintenance, line painting and snow removal.
Kiewel’s goal is to reach 1,000 signatures, and she says she is willing to put in the time to deliver the petition to President Simon. She is 156 signatures away from achieving this target.
“My goal is help students become part of the solution to mend a broken system,” Kiewel said.