Transportation and Parking Services suffers from an image crisis. With the Food for Fines program, Transportation and Parking Services chipped away at its reputation as a ticket writer to reveal a seemingly more compassionate side — one that is willing to trade donations to Field and Fork Pantry for overdue citations.
However, the Student Body should not become complacent: Campus parking is still plagued by high ticket costs, predatory ticketing and a stagnant population of parking spaces.
In December 2017, Scott Fox, the director of TPS, said it wasn’t “our pleasure to... write parking tickets,” but that it was “our reluctant duty.”
While I would wager Fox and his staff do not personally enjoy writing tickets, I’m less confident about UF as an organization on a budget.
UF made $1,531,532 from parking tickets in the 2016-2017 fiscal year. The cost of individual parking citations ranges from $35 to $250 and beyond.
The price per violation suggests money is a factor at play here. TPS can claim to not be motivated to profit off of students, but the math says otherwise. The more tickets written, the more money they bring in.
One can only guess in frustration where the parking attendants hide to pounce so quickly. Do they live under large flat rocks in the lot like a colony of newts? Do they leap from the bushes like hunters when they smell a violation? What cold reptilian instinct makes them emerge to cite fleets of cars in the early hours of the morning?
Now imagine being a financially independent student, surviving on a part-time minimum wage job. Paying that $35 fine, which you feel is cruelly imposed, steals four hours of your hard-earned money for a five-minute mistake.
The university profits off students under the guise of maintaining order, and students often cannot afford to pay.
The origin of Food for Fines is not as bright and charitable as the cheery promotional videos for the program. You may have deduced they are having an image problem due to their ticket-writing habit. What you may not know is it follows closely from stagnant parking spot numbers.
The number of spaces on campus has been largely unchanged since 1998. There are 24,000 spots servicing an on-campus population of more than 52,000.
Perhaps instead of a one-time program which was a self-admitted publicity stunt, TPS should have to save its ticket revenues and buy us a new parking garage.
It’s time we get real solutions to the parking problem. UF students don’t deserve to be burdened for failing to navigate a broken parking system.
Stephan Chamberlin is a UF political science junior. His column comes out on Tuesdays.