Last year, Miami University lost over $400,000 in unpaid parking fines.
Over the past four years, the university has been losing an increasing amount of revenue from on-campus parking violations as the percentage of parking tickets that are paid continues to drop year-after-year, according to data from the Miami University Police Department (MUPD).
MUPD wrote over 26,000 tickets in the 2017 fiscal year, from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017.
Those tickets accumulated nearly $1 million in fines, but barely half were paid off. In 2014, just over three quarters of ticket fees were paid.
There are multiple causes for the decline in revenue, said MUPD Captain Ben Spilman, but one major factor is the difficulty in forcing campus visitors to pay tickets they receive at Miami.
“The enforcement mechanisms [for parking violations] are a little bit stronger for the student population than for the visitor population,” explained David Ellis, Miami’s chief budget officer.
When MUPD doesn’t have a visitor’s name to connect to a parking violation, sometimes it’s easier to dismiss the ticket than hunt the person down. Students, faculty and staff aren’t as difficult to track.
This year, Miami budgeted for half a million dollars in revenue from paid parking violations. But, since they have have collected less than $300,000 so far, MUPD is not expecting to hit its goal.
However, revenue from parking violations only makes up 10 percent of Transportation Services’ budget. The budget averages around $5 million, though half of that is designated for bus services and paid for by student fees.
The majority of the revenue related to parking comes from parking permits and parking garages. But, when less parking fines are being paid, Transportation Services has to find other ways to make up for what it lacks.
Part of the solution was to increase the hourly charge for parking meters and garages.
“I think that fluctuating the way that we’re charging that paid parking has made a big difference for us,” argued Spilman.
Small adjustments in paid parking have included a larger charge for the first hour in garages and a higher hourly rate at the meters. This encourages people to either park in the spacious garages if they need long-term parking or park at the meters for brief trips. This maximizes street parking availability in busy locations like Maple Street.
These changes have helped to alleviate some gaps in the parking portion of Transportation Services’ budget.
“MUPD has managed [its] expense budget to help absorb any fluctuation in revenue,” concluded Ellis. “They have had favorable impacts from revenues other than fines.”
And, the police captain is quick to remind people that MUPD isn’t trying to make money off of students and their parking mistakes.
“We’re more interested in writing good tickets for violations,” explained Spilman, “not tricking people into getting a ticket.”
MUPD gives warnings before writing tickets. This benefits those drivers who might still be confused about where they can park.
Each student, faculty, staff or visitor is eligible for one parking warning per fiscal year. According to Miami’s website, there are only a few offenses that don’t get warnings, including illegally reproducing or misusing a permit and violating parking rules for special events.
Miami also gives drivers an opportunity to appeal their parking tickets, though only 13 percent of appeals were approved in 2017.
“I don’t like the idea of having to build a budget around people [parking] wrong,” said Spilman. “I would rather build a budget around people complying with our parking regulations and building a system that is more sustainable with people doing the right thing.”
To make this system possible, the university strives to make all students aware of how parking works. Beyond the instructive signage across campus, parking information is made available online and provided for every person who buys a parking pass – student, staff, visitor or otherwise. And, that’s a lot of drivers – last year, Miami made over $1.1 million in parking permits.
The H.O.M.E. Office issues and sell the permits. They’re also are responsible for helping students learn how they work.
“It’s important to us to make sure students understand the rules!” wrote Sherri Bowling, assistant director of the H.O.M.E. Office, in an email.
The H.O.M.E. Office provides parking information to all drivers when they purchase permits. Representatives give out parking brochures during orientation and keep their website up to date with parking regulations.