The Black-Market Parking Industry


The scarcity of student parking at Southern Oregon University has birthed a black-market industry of counterfeit parking permits.

Yearly permits at SOU are $140 for both resident and commuter and as I discovered last week, students have differing experience(s) with parking.  There are a total of 2,200 resident, faculty, and commuter parking spots, while 3,000 parking permits have been issued.  Obviously not every person with a permit will be on campus at once, but it begs the question, with more than 6 thousand students, 22 hundred spaces and 3 thousand permits—where can people park and what about those parking without a permit?

The Siskiyou spoke with SOU Parking Officer Jessica Wanderscheid for this story and she outlined the process of receiving a parking ticket.  The Parking Department has a handheld device that contains all of the information for currently permitted vehicles.  If a car doesn’t have a permit, that vehicle’s license plate is entered in the device’s system and they are given a $30 ticket.

The driver is then expected to take the ticket to enrollment services and pay the ticket and “ideally” buy a parking permit, but it’s not a requirement.  One student interviewed described parking as, “unreasonably expensive so I take the rare tickets over the parking pass.”  In theory, this may be worth it; if permits are $140 and tickets are only $30, a driver could get five tickets until it makes sense to buy the permit. That’s if they pay them.

This method works if the ticket is paid, but as Wanderscheid explained, if a car is repeatedly ticketed in the system, and the tickets aren’t paid, the license plate is ran through the DMV and if identified, a ticket is sent to their address.  If the driver can’t be identified, the car can be booted.

Another fact is the parking is more economically affordable than is perceived compared to other colleges.  Compared to colleges such as the University of Oregon and Oregon State University, where prices can be over $300 and $400 respectively.  Also, freshman often can’t get parking permits at all on some campuses.  But what if there was a way to pay less than the $140 rate and not get ticketed?

According to a student, communicating through Yik Yak (let’s call him Mark), such a service exists.  Mark explains that he takes pictures of real permits and uses photoshop to create an outline then uses actual permit numbers to generate an authentic looking pass.  These are then sold for $15, but he will only make these for people he trusts.

There are two reasons this act is possible.  As Wanderscheid explained, she has primarily been the only one on parking citation duty and often isn’t able to get around to check every lot, but that is soon to change; two students are being hired to help out.  Even with the extra enforcement though, it doesn’t necessarily impact Mark’s business.

Mark’s permits have real numbers but are registered to a different car.  The device the Department has doesn’t actually scan the permits, numbers must be entered manually.  And permits aren’t entered manually unless there is a an obvious reason to do so, because as Wandersheid said, “it would be very time consuming to look up each permit.”

But if for some reason one of Mark’s permits gets entered, the consequences are dire.  SOU director of Campus Public Safety, Frederick Creek says such an offense would result in an $85 ticket in addition to being charged with theft and sent through the Student Code of Conduct.

Another thing to keep in mind is the school, as Creek attributed last week, doesn’t think SOU has a lack of parking specifically, “We park a lot of cars in the community around here… if students would quit parking in the community, I think we’d have a challenge with parking spaces.”

Wanderscheid also says that the Parking Department has went around during the busiest times of the day, and there are often many spaces available.

Creek says that parking is a major problem on most campuses and “SOU isn’t immune to that.  We know we have some work to do and we’re doing that by hiring students and revamping our ticket policy.”

A set amount of tickets will soon result in an immediate boot placed on the car.  In addition, the department is looking to implement a towing policy, because they can’t currently tow cars themselves.  The Parking Department urges students to park near school on side streets if possible or walking or riding to campus. There are no immediate plans to increase the number of parking spaces.