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Monday, October 02, 2023

If you see a red truck: Run

Frequent towing and minimal parking availability make having a car difficult for both on and off campus students

<p>The red trucks with giant hooks are a sure sign of impending doom.</p>

The red trucks with giant hooks are a sure sign of impending doom.

Once you start driving around Gainesville, you just can't stop. No, seriously — you can't stop. Because there's nowhere for you to park. 

You must continue driving, circling around in a three-block radius in search of a place to leave your car, and if you're lucky, it will still be there when you get back. 

As a rule of thumb, if you parked for free, you’re probably in the wrong spot.

Daily rates for downtown parking garages are $1 per hour from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and $5 per night from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Downtown street parking on the east and west sides of Southeast First Street, between University Avenue and Southeast First Avenue, has been demoted from what was once two hours of free parking to just 30 minutes.

If you get overwhelmed by paragraph-long parking signs and math equations involving time like me, I recommend just using a parking garage. Or risk getting towed. 

The infamous bright red tow trucks have become the town’s archnemesis. Superior Towing is known for its ruthless, zero tolerance policies and $100 fees.

Despite the horror stories I’ve heard involving these trucks, I have yet to encounter them personally. But I’m sure writing this will make me their next target.

Parking on campus is not any better.

Though UF likely won’t tow your car, they will definitely give you a citation. About 1,300 to 1,400 citations are given out per week on campus, UF TAPS Associate Director Ron Fuller wrote in an email.

There are 14 garages and about 110 surface lots on campus, according to Fuller. Students without decals can pay-by-plate park in only two of them: the Reitz Bookstore and Welcome Center Parking Garage, which is constantly filled with touring families or closed off entirely for events, and at Parking Garage Five off Gale Lemerand Drive near Hume Hall.

Naturally, one might think the solution is to buy a parking decal — but it’s not that simple. 

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For starters, you can’t just buy any decal. The one you get depends on whether you're a graduate or undergraduate student, how many credits you have and whether you live on or off campus.

Every type of decal has its flaws — the walking distance, the insufficient amount of parking spaces, the price.

If you’re a freshman living on campus, you will most likely qualify for a Red 3 decal. These lots hug residential halls, such as Graham, Hume and the Lakeside Complex, and line Fraternity Row. Decals are priced at $80 a semester or $160 for an annual decal.

If you’re a freshman living off campus, don’t even bother. 

As an off-campus undergrad student, I have a bone to pick with UF TAPS. Debatably, off-campus students are going to be driving to campus more often, so why do we get the worst parking spots?  

The decals available to off-campus undergraduate students are called “Park and Ride” because the lots are so far away from the heart of campus that you have to take a bus from the parking garage. Why would I pay $80 a semester to take the bus?

Park and Ride Decals can park in any lot that is marked “Any Decal,” like the lot for Southwest Recreation Center, Vet Med West buildings and other lots scattered a mile away from the center of campus. 

On the bright side, many parking restrictions are lifted in the afternoon. Most garages lift at 4:30 p.m. and then you are free to park in whatever garage you want — as long as space permits. 

Don’t be fooled. You will still be circling around the Reitz parking garage in search of a spot no matter what time of day it is.

Though it is nice to have a car you can drive around as you please, maybe you’re better off just taking the bus.

Contact Namari Lock at Follow her on Twitter @Namari_L

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Namari Lock

Namari Lock is a third-year journalism student and production staff member for The Alligator. She has previously worked as multimedia editor, opinions editor, graphic designer and as a general assignment reporter for the Metro desk. In her last semester at UF, Namari is making her Alligator Sports debut as track and field reporter.

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