Staff Writer: Abenaa Asare
For many Mason students, parking is a topic that invokes anger, frustration and sometimes confusion especially when it comes to parking pass restrictions and variety.
Mason sophomore Darian Banks received a $40 ticket for parking in the general level of the Rappahannock River Deck. Darian had mistaken the language on her reserved Rappahannock Deck pass which she thought could park in any of the general lots, including the general area in the Rappahannock Deck after a certain time.
“The distinction between the general lot of the parking deck and those of the general lots should be made clearer,” Banks said.
According to the Rappahannock Reserved parking pass, the “permit is not valid in service/repair, state vehicle, administrative, faculty/staff and reserved spaces, as well as the visitor or general levels (levels 1 and 2).”
Bank’s confusion arose from the difference between a Rappahannock reserved pass and another reserved lot pass, like Lot J, which have different rules for parking in general lots.
“[The Lot J] Permit is valid in the non-restricted spaces of the general permit areas on the Fairfax campus 5PM – 11PM, Monday through Friday and all day on weekends,” reads the Lot J permit. “Fairfax general permit areas include: A, C, K, L, PV Lot, and the general permit area of Rappahannock River Deck (all of level 2, and the half of level 1 not designated as visitor parking).”
Other reserved passes may park in the general lots, including the Rappahannock River Deck, after a certain time and on weekends but the reserved Rappahannock Deck may not.
According to the Director of Mason Parking and Transportation, Josh Cantor, the overnight regulations and the distinction between the rules on the reserved Rappahanock Deck pass and the reserved lot pass go back to a policy decision that the Parking Advisory Committee made in 2007 when they were planning the Rappahannock River Deck, as well as the Hampton Roads, Eastern Shore and other housing that was being built.”
The deck was built on what was Lot F, which was a 1,000 space surface lot. Typically, the front half were resident student cars that hardly moved and then off-campus students parked in the back half where they could find space. When planning and then building the deck, and with the increase of having 1600 more resident students in that neighborhood, they did not want to have the general areas of the deck squatted by resident cars which would have filled the lower areas and left no room for off-campus students and employees. Thus, the decision was made to restrict overnight parking from 2 a.m. through 5 a.m. Monday through Friday which essentially does not let resident students leave their cars in the general area of the deck except weekends.
Then, as reserved permits were sold on the upper levels, the concern was that if those reserved permits could also park on the lower levels, they would, which wouldn’t leave space for general permits and would leave the reserved area underutilized. Thus, the decision was made that if one has a reserved Rappahannock Deck permit, they can only park in the upper reserved area since they are guaranteed a space there.
Yet Banks says that, as a result of not understanding her ticket, she went a step further to try to appeal the ticket. She was then charged $50 for not accepting the ticket and trying to challenge the rules.
“They have made it extremely discouraging to appeal a ticket even though they could make the language on the parking passes more understanding,” Banks said.
Cantor says that the reserved Rappahannock Deck pass holders already have a place in the deck, which is why they can’t park in the general spaces below like other reserved lot pass holders.
According to Banks, not only do students get ticketed, but they are often discouraged from going a step further because there is a fee at every extra step taken to challenge the tickets.
“Ultimately, these restrictions allow greater utilization of the parking areas. One has to choose what permit suits them best given the tradeoffs, restrictions and price,” Cantor said.
Photo Credit: Pamela Phan