UCO Parking introduces new tech

UCO sent out an email stating: “UCO Introduces License Plate Recognition Technology and Virtual Permits.” The new technology allows for students and faculty to use their license plate as a permit. The Transportation and Parking department have been discussing the switch to virtual permits since 2017. In the email released by UCO, the department will save $60,000 from the switch while promoting “sustainability,” but the prices of permits will not change though the cost of permit production is down.

 “The virtual permits will still be $195,” Transportation and Parking Communication and Administrative Coordinator Brittany Platt said.

“We are already giving them so much money,” Bethany Garrison, a freshman at UCO, said. 

“If they want to make our parking permits virtual, they shouldn’t cost $195.” 

In 2019, the cost of parking increased from $125 to $195. 

“The increase went back into the campus to build lots and reserve funds for a parking structure later on, should enrollment increase,” Platt said. “That is still the plan, that is still what those funds are going to go towards and we are not planning to raise the price of permits… anytime soon.” According to Platt the increase in permit prices came from inflation costs of maintaining lots.

Courtney Toney, a Business Management Major, said, “Inflation is only 1.2% a year… a slight increase in permit prices is reasonable to keep up, but they should not jump like they did in 2019.”

There will be small $5 increases every two to three years to keep up with inflation costs if needed, according to Platt.

Platt said, “We do not receive any government funding that the school receives. We also don’t get any percentage of any student tuition or fees.

“Anything that we generate based on our citation revenue and our permit revenue… that all goes into us maintaining parking lots on campus, lighting parking lots, capital projects [new parking lots or parking garage], ‘Bum-A-Bike’ and “Fix-It’ stations on campus.”

Anthony Neuendorf, a junior said, “If the department is saving $60,000 and I am still having to pay $200 for a parking permit, I expect more parking availability. 

“Most of the conditions that I have seen of the Bum-A-Bike are old, rusted, and not taken care of. I personally would rather have cheaper permits than bikes and fix-it stations.”

Toney said, “I feel like if they are saving money we should save money as well, we’re all college students.” 

The new technology is a program called License Plate Recognition (LPR). Two vehicles have been placed on campus to begin testing,

“Right now we are in the testing phase, since it is an AI (Artificial Intelligence) system it learns,” Platt said. “Right now it is reading stop signs and writing on the sides of cars, it’s kind of a learning process to just try to get it to read the plate.” 

When the LPR scans your license plate it notifies the driver and the transportation department if you are parked in the wrong lot or if the vehicle is not registered to a student or faculty member.

New campus technology will allow more cost efficient parking permits and will allow staff to more easily see if a car has a right to park in a specific parking spot. (Provided/Brittany Platt)

 “It is essentially going to be user driven, the student will register for the permit and put in all their vehicle information … we are able just to see those vehicle details,” Platt said. “We’re not able to see anything personal like insurance information.”

This system does more than scan a license plate

“In addition, it will improve the safety of our campus through a partnership that allows campus police to identify stolen vehicles or vehicles that may have been involved in a crime via the LPR system,” Jenifer Redwine, director of Transportation and Parking Services, said.

“The LPR system can note to alert us if we pass by that vehicle, that could go for city-wide, state-wide, as well,” Platt said. “If there is an Amber Alert, it can let us know.”

Visitors will continue to pay-to-park and a parking employee will come out to ensure the vehicle will not receive a citation. Guests to campus will continue to receive guest codes to put in a pay-to-park system and those codes appear in the LPR system so guests will not receive citations.

The transportation office is still handing out paper citations this year but are looking to switch to e-tickets in the future. 

According to Platt there are benefits to switching to virtual permits, students and faculty can register and transfer permits day-of to different vehicles like rentals through your phone, but if you have multiple vehicles you cannot keep multiple vehicles on campus, each additional vehicle found under your name will be given a citation.

Student jobs will still be available with the new system.

According to Platt, the transportation department does not plan for any student job loss with the new program. “We will still have our parking ambassadors,’ Platt said. “There is still a need for student enforcement to be able to inspect.”

Currently, the drivers of the new vehicles are full and part-time employees. The transportation department is looking to make drivers a student position. The requirement would be a current drivers license and training through the university. 

The LPR system also changes the direction you park your vehicle.

UCO released in an email: “Backing in or pulling through a parking space is not permitted, unless the vehicle has a front license plate. TPS will offer front decorative plates to those who would like the option to park in any direction.” 

 “We would sell those at cost, if somebody wanted to have the ability to park any direction,” Platt said. “Right now the quotes are looking between $5 -$10.”

“I personally do not support this switch to having to install a school plate to benefit the transportation system,” Jose Ibarra, a senior at UCO, said. While I support having a more sustainable system where we reduce the paper usage, this would only benefit the school. It would create a less convenient way for students to park, and have them spend even more money on parking. While a $60,000 saving seems good it’s only for the school. Although in bigger perspective it seems like a good idea, it will only create another burden on students.” 

According to Platt, the department is pulling together resources like links to an installation kit on Amazon if your car does not already have a place for a decorative front-plate.

LPR will begin running in the Fall.

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