BOONE — Parking at Appalachian State University will be different beginning in the 2021-22 school year as physical parking permits will no longer be used.
The equipment currently used by the parking department at App State — such as access card readers and barrier gates — are in poor condition due to excessive age, according to John Eckman, associate vice chancellor for campus services. The technology the department uses is also outdated.
“As we looked into the costs and benefits associated with replacing the card readers and gates, we also looked into newer technology,” Eckman said.
So, the university looked at a new system to use for parking services: the License Plate Recognition system.
“The License Plate Recognition system, which is being utilized quite successfully at several of our sister (University of North Carolina) system universities, including N.C. State, UNC-Chapel Hill and UNC-Charlotte, is not only one of the most advanced technologies available, it is also much more cost effective,” Eckman said. “Moving to this new system will save the university more than $500,000 in equipment and installation costs.”
The LPR system is hardware that scans license plates to determine if the car is permitted to park there or not.
“As we did our research, we also determined that it’s a much more user-friendly system, in that it does not require us to have gated lots anymore, so our faculty, staff and students don’t have to swipe their ID cards for access into parking areas, or remember to place their hang tag parking permit in their windows if they are switching the vehicle they drive to work,” Eckman said.
If a car is found to be in violation of parking in a campus lot without a permit, Eckman said physical parking citations will continue to be placed on vehicles. Eckman said that by state law, revenue generated from parking fines on campus are transferred to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to be utilized for K-12 public education.
Drivers have the option to register multiple vehicles, but can only park one at a time.
After students and staff at App State were notified of the change in how parking enforcement would be handled, some were upset to learn that they would not be allowed to back in or pull into a parking space. One person created a petition to allow registered parkers to back into a parking space.
“This change in policy in no way significantly benefits students or staff,” the petition states. “It simply ensures that it is as easy as possible for parking enforcement to give citations to non-permitted parkers. The risk of increased accidents and the added inconvenience to parkers, especially those of large vehicles, seriously outweigh the only given reason (for) the change — an increase in citation efficiency.”
The license plate must be visible in order to verify there is a valid permit on file, Eckman said.
Drivers who wish to back into a parking space or pull through into one will have the option to order a plate from App State Parking and Transportation for a “nominal charge,” which can be installed on the front of their vehicle.
Eckman said the new system of parking enforcement is beneficial to the university community in a number of ways.
The first is that Eckman said the university expects to see fewer citations because people won’t have to remember to display their parking tag.
“In fact, because they don’t have to display a hang tag parking permit, they also don’t have to worry about the logistics of picking up a physical hang tag permit or getting one sent to them via campus mail,” Eckman said. “I think all of us have at least one story of forgetting our hang tag or dropping our ID card while trying to swipe in a gate in the rain or snow, and holding up the line to get in while trying to retrieve the card or get the reader to read the stripe on it so we can get into a parking lot on campus.”
Eckman said the new system also allows for a more user-friendly experience as people will no longer have to swipe a card reader or pick up a hang tag parking permit.
It will also reduce mistakes.
“Because we will have a picture and location documented for every vehicle, the chance for officer error in enforcement duties is dramatically reduced, which will also reduce hassles for students, faculty and staff,” Eckman said.
From an operations standpoint, Eckman said the new system will allow parking and transportation staff access to real-time data, which will allow the university to utilize the parking resources more efficiently, ensuring that parking areas are not under- or over-utilized.
“The LPR technology allows for quicker and more frequent monitoring of campus parking areas, so we will be better able to ensure that those with parking privileges have access to parking spaces, and during special events, we will have adequate staffing to continue monitoring employee and student parking areas,” Eckman said.
The new system even has a sustainability benefit, Eckman said.
“We will utilize electric vehicles to monitor parking lots and will see a reduction in the use of paper and plastics with the elimination of the physical parking permit system,” Eckman said.
Outside of the reduction of paper and plastics, Eckman said his office will work with the Office of Sustainability to assess other sustainability benefits, which Eckman said is expected.
More information on App State parking can be found at parking.appstate.edu.