MSU, E.L. bring in millions from parking tickets
Nakeshwa Jackson’s heart sank as she approached her parked car Tuesday afternoon and caught sight of the small white envelope peeking out from under her windshield wiper.
Jackson, a first-year graduate student, had received her first-ever parking ticket.
In a rush to attend an appointment, Jackson pulled into the last available metered parking spot on Auditorium Road and found it out of order after depositing several quarters. She didn’t have time to find another spot, so she took a chance and returned to find a $25 fine issued by the university on her car.
“Was I wrong? I don’t know; I fed the meter,” she said. “Either way it goes, they got two hours worth of quarters, and it failed.”
Every day, students, employees, residents and visitors to MSU and nearby East Lansing find themselves tempting fate and parking in a spot that could lead to a citation. Whether it’s for running out of meter minutes, parking in the wrong place or being in the wrong spot at the wrong time, officials within both the city and the university continue to keep their eyes peeled for offending drivers.
The number of tickets issued by MSU Parking Services in 2011 was relatively normal for the institution, reaching 111,585 tickets, said Lynnette Forman, manager of parking operations for MSU.
Fines totaled to about $2.3 million for the university, she said.
East Lansing saw a slight bump in parking numbers this January compared to January 2011 but saw a decline overall from 2010 to 2011.
East Lansing Treasurer Jill Feldpausch told officials at the city’s budget retreat on Feb. 4 that in her discussions with police, there were more parking citations issued in January 2012 than January 2011.
From Jan. 1, 2011 to Jan. 31, 2012, the city’s Parking and Code Enforcement Division, or PACE, issued 41,911 parking citations, according to information obtained through a Michigan Freedom of Information Act request. Compared to the 42,857 citations issued by PACE in 2010, the total number issued decreased.
Foreman said at MSU there are more parking violations in high-traffic areas, such as the intersection of Farm Lane and Wilson Road, and during times of the year when students are in the area.
“High traffic areas are where people fight for scarce (parking) resources,” Forman said.
Within city limits, East Lansing police Capt. Kim Johnson said areas with a high concentration of students are more prone to ordinance violations, including parking citations.
“I would think the student rental areas have more of the parking and code violations,” he said.
Follow the money
Millions of dollars are brought in to both the university and the city of East Lansing each year as a result of parking ticket fines.
In MSU’s case, revenue earned from parking fines goes back into keeping roadways safe, Forman said.
Several of the university’s busiest intersections, such as the three-way intersection near the Sparty statue and the busiest four-way intersections on Farm Lane, have benefited from parking ticket fees with upgraded pedestrian walk signals and construction, Forman said.
Parking citations also help provide a source of revenue to the city of East Lansing’s general fund balance.
During the 2010-11 fiscal year, parking citations issued by the city brought in about $1.3 million, East Lansing Finance Director Mary Haskell said.
About 20 percent of that funding goes back into the parking system to account for uncompensated parking spaces, East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas said.
“If someone doesn’t pay a meter, then the portion of the money from that fine goes back to pay for the parking spot that was taken in the first place,” Lahanas said.
The remaining funding from parking citations goes into the city’s general fund to be used as needed, Haskell said. She said the portion given back to the parking system varies based on what the city has collected in past years.
If parking tickets aren’t taken care of right away, there could be big consequences for offenders in East Lansing and at MSU.
Forman said a $10 late fee is placed on tickets after seven days, and if the ticket goes unpaid it might be transferred to the MSU Office of the Controller or to 54-B District Court, where fees pile up and could end in a warrant for the offender’s arrest.
If six or more tickets are left unpaid, Forman said the car can be towed on the spot. The policy is the same for East Lansing, Johnson said.
Food industry management senior Eleuterio Moreno suffered the consequences of ignoring a ticket two years ago and doesn’t plan on going that route again.
His fee more than doubled after not paying the ticket for several weeks, and after his MSU account was placed on hold, it was time to face the music.
“I just had to go pay it,” Moreno said. “I was furious.”
Since then, Moreno has managed to avoid more parking fines by reading every sign and staying smart when he parks in and around campus.
“I just try to be careful now,” Moreno said. “Just check the signs, and park where you’re supposed to.”