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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Parking system goes automated, adds app

Cars parked in the newly paved Fairhaven C-Lot // Photo by Connor Jalbert
Cars parked in the newly paved Fairhaven C-Lot // Photo by Connor Jalbert

Western has updated its method for checking vehicles for parking permits, becoming the first university in Washington to use License Plate Readers (LPR) in place of physical permits.

Parking officers now use an automated system with cameras that read license plates to check for parking permits. Bob Putich, manager of the Student Business office, said License Plate Readers have significantly reduced the time it takes to patrol, allowing officers to check the entire campus every hour.

“It really has hindered those people who would park illegally for one or two hours knowing that officers couldn’t get around that fast, and now they can’t do that,” Putich said. “That’s going to allow more space for regular parkers who have paid for parking.”

The License Plate Readers cut down on patrol time by giving officers the ability to inspect permits while driving through the lots without leaving their vehicle.

“It really has hindered those people who would park illegally for one or two hours knowing that officers couldn’t get around that fast, and now they can’t do that.”

Bob Putich

The switch has also eliminated work hours that had previously been dedicated to preparation. In the past, employees spent about a month organizing, assembling and distributing physical parking permits every summer. Once the passes were distributed, it took officers multiple hours to manually inspect every permit, Putich said.

People using pay stations now enter their license plate number into the system and walk away without having to go back to their car. The Parkmobile app is now available for use, allowing students to pay an adjustable hourly rate to park using their phones.

Kristen Uri, a student at Western who has been parking on campus for a year, prefers using the new system. “I think it’s actually way better. It’s more convenient than having to worry about having an actual pass,” Uri said.

In the past, students and faculty would remove parking passes and forget to put them back by the time they parked on campus again. Some students also had two cars registered for parking and often forgot to switch out the permit into the vehicle currently being used. Citations came as a result of these mistakes and the citation appeal process would often be spent reviewing citations that are now easily avoidable with the new system, Putich said.

Students can also list up to five people under their permit number in the online system. They can only park one vehicle on campus at a time though.

“You can list your roommate’s license plate under your permit number in your own personal file and it’ll be active for your roommate’s car,” Putich said.

“I think it’s actually way better. It’s more convenient than having to worry about having an actual pass.”

Kristen Uri

Although the License Plate Reader system is easier to use, Yuri had reservations about the lack of a physical passes and feels the parking lots have been busier since the new system was implemented.

“I think it’s caused more problems when it comes to parking availability. I feel like a lot of people are still parking even if they haven’t purchased a permit which isn’t fair to the people that have,” Uri said.

Some students have entered the wrong license plate number since the new system has been used, but Putich emphasized this first academic quarter will be a learning experience.

“Come spring term, everyone will be experienced with it. They’ll understand how to have the right information in there,” Putich said.

Signing up, purchasing and using a permit with the new system is the same process as in previous quarters. Parking passes can be purchased through Parking Services in the Student Business Office, or online through Western’s parking portal.

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