car

Instead of decal parking passes, driver’s license plates will now be their virtual parking passes. 

Cars in JMU’s parking lots will look a little different this year. Starting this semester, JMU has implemented a new virtual parking pass system, where driver’s license plates are now their parking passes.

Instead of purchasing decal parking passes at the Parking and Transit Services office or online that arrive via mail, students must now register their vehicle and license plate on the Parking and Transit Services portal. Registered vehicles on campus will be identified by capturing images of license plates using license plate recognition (LPR) technology.

Ginny Cramer, associate director of communications and deputy spokesperson, said existing physical student parking passes from last year will still be valid and can continue to be used through their August expiration date. 

Cramer said the main motivation for this year’s changes were the customer service advantages offered by going virtual, making parking “simpler and easier.”

Another advantage to the new parking system, Cramer said, is vehicle information can be quickly updated via the web portal. When driving a rental vehicle or returning to JMU with a different family vehicle, drivers no longer have to visit Parking and Transit Services to receive a temporary pass. 

For students, faculty and staff who don’t want to purchase a year-long pass, this year’s parking system gives people the ability to purchase a single-semester permit. Previously, this option was only available to students who were studying abroad, completing student teaching or graduating in December. Additionally, Cramer said daily permits can now be purchased via the web portal.

Another pro to the new system, she said, is that virtual permits, unlike decals, can’t be lost or stolen and don’t need to be removed from vehicles.

The cost of implementing the new system is “comparable to the previous system,” Cramer said. Equipping the parking enforcement vehicles with the new technology costs about $30,000 per vehicle, Cramer said, while other expenses, such as the cost of plastic permits, are no longer accounted for.

Parking & citation statistics

During the first week of classes this semester — Aug. 24 through Aug. 26 — there were a total of 886 citations issued, Cramer said. This is just six more citations than the first week of classes during the fall 2021 semester — Aug. 25, 2021 through Aug. 27, 2021 — during which a total of 880 citations were issued. 

Of those 886 citations, there were 120 citations that carried no fine and were instead given a “warning,” Cramer said. Warnings are only given when a vehicle isn’t registered or is displaying an invalid or improperly displayed permit, she said. Roughly 70% of the 886 citations, or about 620, were issued to drivers that parked in lots they weren’t permitted in, Cramer said, including students in faculty and staff lots, or resident students in commuter lots. No warnings are given in those instances.

Cramer said it’s not known yet how much revenue will be generated from the 886 citations during the first three days of the semester, as many remain unpaid at this time or are under appeal. 

JMU Parking and Transit Services provides a list of spaces available in each parking deck on its website. According to JMU’s parking lot directory, there are 6,560 commuter spaces, 2,995 resident spaces, 1,049 miscellaneous spaces and 3,342 Purple Zone spaces across campus.

As of Aug. 28, Cramer said 8,454 commuter and 792 resident fall semester or annual permits have been sold, a slight decrease compared to last fall. Last year, as of Aug. 29, 2021, 8,871 commuter and 733 resident fall semester or annual permits had been sold. Cramer, however, said these figures don’t include commuter carpool or evening permits sold during that same period. 

The revenue generated from student permits sold through Aug. 28 is $2,464,337, which “helps support operating costs” for Parking and Transit Services, Cramer said.

Student perspectives

While some aren’t sure about the new system yet, other students are enjoying it.

Junior Kristin Faralli said she likes the convenience of an online parking system over previous year’s stickers.

“I hate putting stickers on my car, ’cause it always leaves a residue,” Faralli said, “but I don’t know if I like the virtual aspect. I think there’s a lot that can go wrong, technically speaking.”

Although there are thousands of spots on campus, Faralli said she’s already had a few issues with parking on campus this semester, including on the second day of classes.

“I got a warning cause my license plate wasn’t facing the street, to see if you had the permit or not,” Faralli said.

According to an online release about the virtual parking passes, a vehicle’s license plate must be visible from the parking lot traffic aisles. Drivers who don’t have a front license plate on their car and prefer to back in or pull through parking spaces must purchase a special vanity plate from Parking and Transit Services for a one-time fee of $10 and display it on the front of their vehicle to avoid being ticketed.

Junior Emily Nicholson said she was a “little suspicious” of the new parking system being virtual, but she enjoyed the ease of signing up for the parking pass online.

Nicholson doesn’t have much experience with parking at JMU: She’s a transfer student this semester and carpools to campus with her roommates. After getting a parking citation last week due to parking in a faculty space, she described parking on campus as “a little hectic.” 

“I don’t think [my roommates and I] have had an issue where we haven’t been able to park overall yet, but we’ve only been doing this for a week, so who knows?” Nicholson said.

Senior Allie Anzalone said she likes the change to virtual passes because people can’t “meddle” with the virtual system. 

“With the stickers, you put it on the outside of your car. Anyone can come up, peel it off,” Anzalone said.

Both Faralli and Anzalone also highlighted that an issue with parking at JMU is the lack of spots available to students at certain times of the day.

“It’s crazy,” Faralli said. “You have to get [to campus] an hour before class or else you’re not going to have a chance of being on time.”

Anzalone said she has a practical view on the state of parking on campus. With parking on campus, she said, “as long as you give yourself 30 minutes, you’re probably fine.”

“I keep in mind, unless you go to a small school, how’s it not going to be bad? It’s just about planning it,” Anzalone said. 

Contact Elle Hart at hart2ej@dukes.jmu.edu. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.