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U.Va. plans 24/7 ParkMobile meters at Central Grounds Garage, closing late-night parking loophole

Students expressed their concerns over the planned meters

Human parking attendants frequently leave the Central Grounds Garage around 11 p.m.
Human parking attendants frequently leave the Central Grounds Garage around 11 p.m.

New parking meters are slated to take effect in the Central Grounds Parking Garage in January 2019 — a change that will close a long-time loophole where students leaving the garage at late hours could avoid paying for parking.

According to Parking and Transportation Director Rebecca White, these new meters — which will likely launch Jan. 14 — will feature multiple payment options including ParkMobile. ParkMobile is an app (available on both iPhone and Android) that allows people to pay for parking via their smartphone.

For garage patrons who don’t want to use ParkMobile or for those who do not have the app, they can pay with cash and credit card.

Meters are already in place at North Grounds Recreation Center, Observatory Hill Dining Facility, Slaughter Recreation Center and the Aquatic and Fitness Center.

“The meters are enforced by combining management software applications with personnel on location,” White said. 

Currently, around 11:00 p.m. each night — excluding Sundays, when the garages are unattended — the attendants staffing the two gated entries to the Central Grounds Garage leave their post and the gates blocking the exit are lifted, enabling garage patrons to leave without paying. 

Some students park at the Central Grounds Garage knowing that if they leave late at night, the parking will be free.

“If UVA claims to care about our well being and safety, and they want us to succeed academically, they shouldn’t CHARGE US to park on grounds at night!” third-year College student Elana Marmorstein said in a Twitter message to The Cavalier Daily. 

Third-year College student Jackson Samples also expressed similar concerns about safety. 

“Students, especially women, could definitely feel unsafe walking home at such an hour,” Samples said. 

Samples also shared his concern specifically for library workers and those who often spend late nights at on-Grounds libraries. 

Marmorstein noted that a change in the system may leave some students without options. 

“[Closing the loophole] favors students who ... can afford to pay for parking/afford to live close to Grounds,” Marmorstein said. 

Samples also commented on the availability of transportation on Grounds. 

“It's more a matter of public transportation not existing late at night,” Samples said. 

University Transit Services run less frequently at night, with some bus lines stopping their service entirely. 

“If this policy was put in place I think there would have to be a definite increase in the frequency of bus service, otherwise you are asking a lot of students to walk 30 minutes home in unsafe conditions,” Samples said.

When asked for comment, White said significant discounts are available during late evening hours. 

“The hourly fee for the Central Grounds Garage is significantly discounted (50%) from 5PM-10PM. every day except Sunday when the discount is 65% from 8AM-10PM,” White said in an email statement to The Cavalier Daily. “Every day between 10PM  and 8AM, there is an extreme discount (another 50% to 90% depending on the length of stay) of $1 for any portion of that period.” 

White seemed to recognize that some people have concerns about the expense of parking at Central Grounds Garage.

“These discounts are in place to recognize the type of use after hours and minimize the financial burden on parkers during off peak hours.” White said. 

According to White, Parking and Transportation still expects that garage usage will remain the same after the installation of the new meters. White said she hopes the new meters will alter the experience of drivers by eliminating lines waiting at the exit of Central Grounds Garage. 

“[This] will open up other possibilities, like publishing real-time parking availability data which we have not done as yet,” White said. 

Some people said they would still try to find other places to park if the loophole is closed, regardless of if there is real-time parking availability data. 

Olivia Sabik, a doctoral candidate at the University, she would have parked on side streets if the Central Grounds Garage had “cost anything basically.” Sabik, a former member of the Honor Committee, said she found parking in Central Grounds made it easier for her to get to meetings on time. 

“Ideally the situation would be that U.Va provided very reliable public transportation or very affordable parking, potentially even allowing the loophole to exist so that students have reliable transportation home,” Samples said. 

In responses to concerns about the availability of reliable public transportation, White responded with the academic hours of operation of the University Transit System buses, which run until 12:30 a.m. or 2:30 a.m., depending on the day, at 20-minute intervals, according to the UTS website. White also noted that after those times, Safe Ride — a University-run free ride service that operates late at night when buses stop running —  begins.