Towed cars emphasize parking problems

On Jan. 26, 2022, three cars were towed from a fire lane near the Town Houses (THs). Five days later, Safety and Security Lieutenant Salvatore Incorvaia sent an email to the student body reminding them of the College’s parking policies. The correspondence ended in an underlined sentence: “If you are parked in any of the restricted areas listed during the hours noted, your vehicle will be towed at your expense.” 

Despite the clear guidelines noted in this situation, parking has been a point of contention and confusion for students. Students are required to pay $140 per semester to register their car, with the price adjusted according to how much financial aid they are given. Underclassmen who live in the dormitories are often given spots in the South Lot, which is at least a 10-minute walk from their dormitory. The Safety and Security website is outdated and difficult to navigate. Skylar Huebner ’24, a student who owns a car on campus, said, “It’s difficult to find many of the answers you look for from the parking regulations section of the Vassar website. The fee per semester for car registration is a steep price to pay that I don’t personally understand where it could be going to warrant the price.” 

Director of the Campus Response Center (CRC) Arlene Sabo said the three cars towed on Sunday violated multiple regulations. She said, “All three were on the tow list for having received numerous tickets throughout the year, for being unregistered and for parking in unauthorized spaces such as fire lanes.” Students who have received violations on their unregistered cars can register their vehicles and the violations will be waived, unless the violation is for parking in an unauthorized space, such as a fire lane. However, there is not much signage relaying the information at many campus parking lots. Huebner once received a $25 charge to her school account with no information stating the cause of the fine. She assumed it was for parking in the Josselyn House parking lot and said, “I don’t remember getting a physical ticket for that, so it’s fishy but I just paid it and moved on.” 

Vassar’s parking regulations are strict. Students cannot park on the main campus on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. and can be fined for forgetting to report changed license plates or exceeding 15 miles per hour at any time. Sabo stated, “We’ve towed a total of five cars this academic year. Receiving numerous tickets (one previously unidentified vehicle had 25 tickets), parking in fire lanes, not moving for snow events are many of the violations that result in towing.” She further emphasized the importance of keeping fire lanes clear, as they are for life and death situations. 

Associate Dean of the College for Residential Life and Wellness Luis Inoa clarified, “[T]he intent of allowing students to have a car on campus is to provide a means for students to get off-campus for a variety of needs. It is not meant for students to use their cars to commute around campus. We are chiefly a pedestrian campus.” However, few students know about the late night safety shuttles that run every night. The information is at the bottom of the parking page on the website. The nighttime campus safety shuttle runs 6 p.m.—12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 6 p.m.—2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. 

On top of the $140 fee, the financial stressors of tickets and fines can be a hardship for members of the campus community. When asked about considering these hardships, Sabo said, “The best course of action is to register their car so that all unregistered violations are removed. Next I would suggest appealing tickets if there was some emergency reason they had to park in an unauthorized parking space/reserved space, etc. Even if it is that one was initially unaware I would appeal it.” Inoa acknowledged the vast room for improvement of on campus transportation, which would help the parking situation. He said, “The need to improve campus transportation has come up in a variety of settings including the Committee on College Life and the Campus Master Planning Committee. We welcome any ideas to address concerns and needs.” 

Vassar’s cost of parking is higher than comparable institutions, such as Wesleyan University, which charges $125, and Middlebury College, which charges $50. According to Huebner, parking causes an extra burden of stress on students while living here: “Vassar doesn’t make it very easy to have a car here.”

 

2 Comments

  1. This article really misses the mark. First, students who choose to keep a car on campus should have to pay the full cost of storing the car. The college must pay to maintain parking lots, and of course there is an opportunity cost, since the land used for parking can’t be used for other, potentially more productive purposes. Students who keep cars on campus and demand reduced parking fees are asking students who don’t have cars to subsidize their parking costs. There is no reason for this transfer to occur.

    Second, this article presents those students who have been towed as victims. This is irresponsible journalism. The towed students have racked up numerous parking violations. Parking where one is not entitled to is an expropriation of public space. These violators make campus more dangerous and less pleasant for anyone not in a car.

    Finally, the interviewee claims that Vassar does not “make it very easy to have a car [on campus].” It shouldn’t be easy to have a car on campus! Cars are the largest contributor to US transit emissions, cause thousands of deaths each year, and make campus less pedestrian-friendly. I hope future reporting on the subject will be more even-handed.

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