August 31, 2010 — The first parking scofflaw has gotten the boot.
In an effort to collect $265,000 in delinquent parking tickets, the University of Virginia's Department of Parking and Transportation this month began locking a device on the tires of cars with a history of unpaid parking tickets.
P&T personnel ticketed a sport utility vehicle in the University Hall parking lot about 9:30 a.m. Monday for not having a valid parking permit. When they checked the license plate number, the car was found on the delinquent list and the traffic boot was clamped to the vehicle's tire and locked in place; the vehicle could not be moved without damaging it or the tire or both.
Shaun McCready, assistant director of facilities and operations at Parking and Transportation, said a student contacted the office by about 10:30 a.m. on Monday and came in soon thereafter to pay the ticket, around $600 in outstanding parking tickets and the $50 boot removal fee. Then he purchased a valid parking permit.
"He knew it could happen to him and, when it did, he did what he was supposed to do," said Rebecca White, director of Parking and Transportation.
According to White, more than 1,500 car owners have piled up $265,000 in unpaid parking fines since July 2009. Of these, 40 license plates represent $50,000 in unpaid fines. The top two delinquents each owe in excess of $3,000.
Parking fines are usually about $45 for each offense, with an additional $25 fee if paid after the deadline. In fiscal year 2009-10, the University collected about $572,000 in parking fines.
It can be difficult to track a vehicle's owner. Students and staff who have applied to Parking and Transportation for permits or have paid previous citations have already self-reported their license plate numbers, but the department must contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to identify vehicles that have not been previously linked to an individual.
When plates can be linked to students, the cases are turned over to Student Financial Services for collection. A student with delinquent fines can be blocked from registering for classes or receiving transcripts until the account is settled.
But many of the delinquencies are cars that are not directly connected to students, White said. If vehicles are registered to staff or nonstudents, Parking and Transportation sends dunning notices, and has now added booting to the collection effort.
"Once the word gets out that we are booting vehicles, people may start coming in and paying their fines," McCready said.
"We're trying to influence people's behavior to park legally," White said. "We want to match our parking inventories to the demand."