- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) - The University of Wyoming is on track to collect $280,000 from parking tickets this fiscal year, a nearly 30 percent jump from last year, according to an analysis by the Casper Star-Tribune.

The spike coincides with a restructuring of university parking enforcement, along with a leadership change in the parking services office.

University students have taken notice, too.

“It seems to me they are ticketing more, and for silly reasons,” said Kolby Hilderbrand, a junior in the College of Education.

Two weeks ago, the 22-year-old arrived to campus early for an afternoon class that usually lasts a little over an hour. She parked her car at a meter and deposited enough change to last an hour and a half. But class ran late.

She returned to her car, three minutes after the meter expired, to find an officer placing a bright orange ticket on her windshield.

She tried to explain. She asked if she could deposit another quarter. But it was no use. The three minutes cost her $21.

“Parking on campus is terrible,” she said.

Hilderbrand is not alone in her frustration.

She is one of as many as 7,121 students who have received tickets so far this year, according to figures obtained through the Wyoming Public Records Act.

The numbers tell the story of a university parking enforcement team that has been more aggressively issuing tickets and warnings this fiscal year.

If the office keeps it up through July, it will rake in about $45,000 more in parking ticket revenue than it did last year, assuming all tickets are paid.

Paul Kunkel, the manager of UW’s Transit and Parking Services, said the increase can be explained by administrative changes made last year.

Kunkel and his department redesigned officers’ inspection routes to increase the number of lots visited. The department also nearly doubled the number of its officers. Now there are up to five on duty at any given time, he said. Before there were as few as two.

More officers have cost the university an extra $10,000 this year, Kunkel said.

The department also hired a new parking enforcement manager, Austin Bramwell, who is more aggressive than his predecessor. Bramwell wants his officers to distribute roughly 1.5 tickets an hour, though he specified the department does not have a quota.

The money received from tickets helps pay for the university’s parking and transportation department - a $3.2 million operation.

Some of the cash also helps pay for special projects, Kunkel said. This summer, for example, the university will use the money to help repave the student union parking lot and to start constructing a new bus hub near the union intended to cut congestion.

Per parking space, the union is one of the most popular spots for parking tickets, accounting for 3,600 tickets and warnings and $64,500 worth of citations since July 1, 2013.

It’s a statistic 20-year-old David Brimmer knows firsthand.

Brimmer, a finance and economics student who works for the student newspaper, was running late last Friday.

The 20-year-old had a 3 p.m. meeting at the union, so he parked his SUV in the lot out front, which was largely empty, and ran inside. When he came back less than an hour later, he could see the orange slip on his window. He was fined $31 for not having a permit.

Brimmer said he knew he shouldn’t have parked where he did, but the alternative would’ve meant parking a few blocks away and being late.

He said more students are complaining about parking on Yik Yak, an anonymous messaging application, than in the past. He’s also noticed a greater presence of parking enforcement. He sees a ticketing officer about once a day. Last year it seemed like he never saw any.

The ticketing points to the larger problem of not enough parking on campus, Brimmer said.

If there were more places to park, he reasons, less students would be tempted to risk a ticket.

UW students make up the majority of car owners in the 31,814-person town, said Paula Wilson-Cazier, executive assistant to Laramie’s city manager. Tickets and congestion are a symptom of higher demand on the same resources.

Kunkel, the parking services manager, is well aware of the issue.

The university plans to build two parking garages in the future, Kunkel said, but when that will be remains uncertain.

A garage won’t necessarily change the number of parking tickets issued. There’s always going to be tickets when you’re dealing with college students, he said.

Many students are also irritated with the appeal process.

About two-thirds of appeals filed have been denied since July 2013, a Star-Tribune analysis of school data shows.

While some students are in the wrong when it comes to parking, others are not, ASUW Senator Kadi Cooley pointed out.

Sometimes students park illegally because they are unable to see the snow-covered lines in the lot — a difficult situation to prove, she said.

Cooley sits on an ASUW committee tasked with finding a solution. Not too long ago, she sat down with Kunkel to talk about the issue. When she came out of his office, a familiar bright orange ticket sat on her windshield.

Go figure, she thought.


Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, https://www.trib.com



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