As persistent as Stony Brook University is in attempting to get across the image of being red hot, there will always be one color that the thousands of commuters and residents on this campus can better identify with—it’s the color yellow and it helped contribute to $960,590 in parking fines in 2009.
These yellow envelopes carry the parking tickets that are issued every year amongst more than 13,000 parking stalls and what 22-year-old senior Carlos Parreno angrily noticed on the windshield of his car this past Tuesday.
“I’ve been ticketed too many times,” said Parreno, an English major who is now commuting after dorming on campus. “When I pay for the whole day of parking, I want them to give me a ticket so I can say ‘You’re finally wrong,” he said, still angry over his recent ticket, which he admitted to his own negligence.
Since 2005, there has been a roughly 40 percent increase of tickets issued and an overall 65 percent increase of ticket revenue from 2005 to 2009, according to records obtained through a freedom of information act request by The Press.
That approximates to an average of 50 tickets per day in 2005 compared to 83 tickets in 2009. And since that time, the price of a ticket fine for parking illegally has increased from $15 in 2007 to $30 the following year. There has also been an introduction of residential zones, where residents are limited to parking to the quad they live in.
“We do have to convince people of the mass transit theory and go against that Long Island 7-11 mentality where you can drive right up to class,” said James O’Connor, director of transportation and parking on campus. “Ultimately, it increased the traffic on the roadway, increased our carbon foot print and reduced our sustainability,” said O’Connor about the old form of residence parking.
As for the money, it goes back to ensuring that more tickets are issued and safety is ensured, at least according to Barbara Chernow, vice president of facilities and services. “It’s used to promote safety, because if we didn’t have a traffic enforcement staff, handicap spaces and fire lanes would be continually blocked and the number of accidents would skyrocket.”
Of the total 30,255 tickets issued in 2009, more than half were unauthorized parking violations while there were 9,656 expired meter violations. To put it in comparison, there were 9,190 unauthorized parking violations in total in 2005.
For Dean Miller, director of the Stony Brook News Literacy program, parking has made him ride his bike to work as often as he can. “I use my car as little as possible,” said Miller, who will leave notes on his car pleading not to get ticketed, as was the case when he was a new professor without a permit. “When I do drive, I find I’m going to pay. It’s going to cost me 30 or 40 bucks.”
Miller has been ticketed for an expired meter, parking in the stadium lot after he couldn’t find parking in the faculty lot on the day of a final he had to prepare and for parking his car at the train station overnight.
The bright yellow envelope is something Miller has become familiar with quite well in his two years as a professor. “I hate it. It’s such an utter waste of my money,” he said. “It’s always my fault, but I’m always looking for a break. It’s a show no mercy policy.”
That little mercy is the reality Chernow has come to expect out of the thousands of people who park their cars on campus. “I think if you’re going to travel to Manhattan, or if you’re going to any city, you’re going to have to use mass transit when you can or just leave enough time to find parking.”
It’s why Miller has come to think of James Simons’ recent construction of the Simons Center to be one of pure ingenuity.
“The smartest thing James Simons did was he gave those professor gated private parking,” said Miller. “That’s the ultimate perk on this campus, it’s parking where you know you can always park.”