Amid the bumper-to-bumper parked cars in USF lots, the side-by-side parking bordering campus, and the parallel-parked cars squeezed just shy of a love tap in surrounding neighborhoods, one can find parking restriction signs pose a traffic jam of nightmares for USF commuters. Violating these restrictions paves a two-lane road: one lane a trail of expensive citations, and a second lane of cash speeding out of bank accounts to pay parking debts.
With a pinch of luck and a handful of cash, commuters can purchase a USF park ing permit for $637.50 that is valid through fall, spring and summer session and solve a portion of the parking predicament. Students say it’s worth it, though the permit does not completely quell the crisis.
“It’s definitely nice to have, but I wish it didn’t cost so much, especially since there is no guarantee [of getting a spot],” said USF sophomore Gus Shamieh, who has purchased the year-long permit the last two years after winning the USF parking lottery.
The USF permit parking lots total 800 spots and include the Koret, Lone Mountain, Hayes-Healy, and Main Gate lots. According to Dan Lawson, executive director of USF’s Public Safety Department, Public Safety is required to sell permits to faculty and staff who wish to purchase one. This year, 800 permits were sold to faculty and staff, and with hundreds of students applying for permits, USF has implemented a lottery system to whittle down the number of permits they sell to students to 150.
“There are not many options because parking space is limited,” said Lawson. On-campus residents are not allowed to partake in the lottery, as they are not allowed to purchase permits.
Shamieh, who commutes to USF four days a week, primarily parks in the Hayes-Healy underground lot that provides valet service. If the lot is full, his permit usually does him no good.
“Sometimes I just give up and park in the two hour zones,” he said, referring to the neighborhood street parking that requires a separate permit from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). If you don’t have this permit, you can park in the zone for two hours, at which point the cart-and-car chase begins, with students dodging meter-maids to avoid a $65 violation.
For $76 a year, students can disregard the two hour warning by purchasing a permit from the SFMTA, though they must meet certain requirements in order to do so, such as proving full time status at a higher educational institution within San Francisco, living in the permit area and having a registered vehicle. These permits are not applicable to commuter students.
Still, Shamieh is fortunate to have won the right to purchase a USF permit two years in a row, which is more than hundreds of other student-commuters can say. But if you think Shamieh has lady luck on his side, you would think USF senior Thomas Tina married her.
Tina has lucked out in USF’s parking lottery the last three years and can count on one hand the number of times he has not found a parking spot in one of the lots. When he can’t find a spot, he said, “I either get lucky or park in the two-hour zones.”
USF nursing student senior Natalie Filter is a resident of Loyola Village who has a car but not a permit. “I heard you can’t get a permit from the city with a Loyola Village address,” she said, when asked if she ever considered buying a city permit. And when it comes to a USF permit, Filter holds up a stop sign. “Loyola Village parking garage permits are $500 per semester,” she said. “I’d have to get a lot of tickets to get to that amount.”
Shamieh, Filter and Tina all have avoided piling up parking debt, but some unknown students are forking out the cash to attend class every day.
According to Lawson, USF made $137,182.00 from citations in the 2008-09 fiscal year, enough money for students to buy 215 year-long USF parking permits or 1,805 year-long neighborhood permits from the SFMTA.
Lawson says the Community Service Officers (CSO) and Public Safety Officers (PSO) that enforce USF parking regulations do not work on quota and only give tickets when needed.