With the university continuing to increase in size, the growing pains that students often feel the most are the diminishing number of parking spaces near the center of campus. While there are enough parking spaces around campus for the student body, many of the spaces are not conveniently located for students who may be in a hurry to get to class.
Some have discovered that parking on the streets of Huntsville provides a close and convenient alternative to parking so far away from campus. Students who park on the street do have easy access to campus, but there is a drawback. Students on the streets face the risk of receiving a parking ticket from the Huntsville Police Department.
As students head to class at 8:00 a.m., Parking Enforcement Official for HPD, Howard Cannon, picks up his equipment at the station and heads out on his bike towards downtown Huntsville. It’s his job to ensure that the citizens of Huntsville and the students at Sam Houston University obey the parking laws in the city.
Many students may be familiar with the parking tickets they may have received from Cannon, as he patrols many of the city streets just outside campus. A location where many students may have received a ticket from Cannon he said is off of University Ave. and 16th Street. These close to campus, two-hour maximum, parking spaces seem like the perfect parking space, unless your car is parked there for too long.
At University Ave., Cannon monitors whether or not vehicles stay parked in these spaces for longer than two hours. When he first arrives, Cannon said he writes down what time he begins to monitor what cars are present. Walking past each car, Cannon said he makes chalk marks on the back of each tire, and when he has finished each car, he notes what time he leaves. Cannon said he comes back around two to two and a half hours later to see which cars still have a chalk line on them. If a car is still there from earlier, Cannon writes a $25 parking ticket.
Sergeant David Collins, who is over support services at the Huntsville Police Department, said that two hour parking has a specific purpose, and students have to understand why the city designates parking the way it does.
“The city marks two hour parking because there is more demand for parking than there are spaces available,” Collins said.
Another parking violation that many students commit, Cannon said, is when students park on the wrong side of the street, facing against traffic. This ticket, which will cost $65 if you violate it, can be prevented if you park your car with traffic.
Writing parking tickets isn’t about just trying to find someone who is doing something illegal; Collins said a major issue with these violations is safety.
“It may not appear to be dangerous to park facing traffic, but the dangerous point is leaving from there because you’re on the wrong side of the street,” Collins said. “Pulling out to where you can get a clear view of oncoming traffic puts you and someone else driving on the road at risk.”
Another safety issue is raised when students park to close to an intersection or crosswalk.
“Parking to close to an intersection or a stop sign may not seem like it’s that dangerous,” Collins said, “but while you’re in class how many other people are passing by that intersection and can’t get a clear view of oncoming traffic.”
Parking to close to an intersection will cost you $55.
Cannon warned students to watch out for other parking violations that they may not be aware of. Don’t park within 30 feet of a traffic control device, whether it be a stop sign or traffic light, Cannon said, because it’s a sight hazard that will cost you $77.
Avoid parking next to yellow and red curbs, Cannon said, the red curb, or parking in a fire lane will cost you $77, and parking next to a yellow curb will cost you $49.
Yellow and red painted curbs mean no parking, Collins said, but just because a curb isn’t painted, it doesn’t mean that a person is safe and isn’t violating a traffic law.
“If the curb is painted for 15 feet, the law still requires you to be at least 30 feet away from a traffic control device, but people see the painted area and think it’s ok to park past it,” Collins said. “All we ask is for people to use good judgment and if it looks to close, don’t take a chance.”
This has confused people in the past, Collins said, but as the department identifies areas that are confusing, they do try and alleviate the issues associated with it. The department doesn’t want the law to be conflicting with the way the curbs are painted Collins said.
One of the most expensive violations is parking in a handicapped space. Cannon said they don’t have any sympathy for people who violate this parking regulation, and at a first offence at $395, a second offence at $750 and a third offence at $1000, these tickets can really take a hit on your wallet.
In many parking areas around campus, Cannon said he watches student’s parking habits and notices that they tend to pull in, park and think about it later. Students don’t look around and don’t look at the curbs, signs or lines before they pull into a space.
Cannon said he isn’t trying to write tickets and often tells students when he sees them park illegally.
“I don’t write a citation unless I know it’s a good citation, and I don’t write them for the sake of writing them,” Cannon said.
Students need to take an extra minute or two to evaluate where they’re parking, Collins said, and look at whether or not it’s legal and safe.
“The earlier you get somewhere the more opportunities you have to find a better spot,” Collins said. “It’s the people that are in a hurry and running late that are desperate to park that are going to take a chance and park in an inappropriate spot.”