Starting next week, students who disregard parking regulations will encounter wheel locks, the newest cost-cutting big idea.
The switch from towing vehicles to leaving them stuck in place comes out of a concern for the time and expense of UT officers, according to Mark Hairr, the director of parking and transit services.
"It saves a lot of time and effort is the primary reason," he said.
Wheel locks also remove the potential damage that towing a vehicle can cause and eliminates the stress on drivers of fleeting panic when their car has disappeared. The new measure saves money for the university, as towing costs continue to rise.
Drivers who return to locked vehicles will be able to pay the outstanding fines at the Parking and Transit Services office during its business hours, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday or online after hours. Once the fee is paid, a wheel lock technician will remove the impediment from the wheel.
"We can remove the wheel-lock whether it's in the evening or weekends or whatever the case may be," Hairr said. "It's 24/7."
Towable offenses now become wheel-lockable ones; if a student acquires three outstanding citations and/or a $250 outstanding balance, he or she may find the vehicle locked in place.
The newest deterrent to illegal campus parking, wheel locks will be used only on vehicles parked on UT property. City streets, like Volunteer Boulevard and Fraternity Park Drive, are immune, for now.
At last week's Board of Trustees meeting, however, the board approved a measure to assume ownership of 4.3 miles of campus streets that currently fall under the City of Knoxville's jurisdiction. Though technically owned and maintained by the City, the following streets could be under UT's watch as early as January: Twentieth Street, Andy Holt Avenue, Chamique Holdsclaw Drive, Fraternity Park Drive, Johnny Majors Drive, Lake Loudoun Boulevard and Pat Head Summitt Street.
Chris Cimino, vice chancellor for finance and administration, said the university has budgeted about $147,000 annually for maintaining the new streets and asserted that the cost is worth it.
According to a UT press release, Cimino said that construction projects will be expedited and the campus beautification master plan will be augmented. He also pointed out another obvious benefit: the right to control and monitor on-street parking.
Students typically enjoy relaxed parking meter regulations and use the city's spaces for free, as evidenced by the parallel-parked vehicles lining streets like Volunteer Boulevard. With the looming shift in ownership, however, the free ride to convenient parking may be coming to an end.
Marianela D'Aprile, a rising senior in architecture, received a ticket in Spring 2013 after parking in a 30-minute loading zone for only 23 minutes but did not contest it because of the inherent hassle. She indicated that if UT gains ownership of city streets, she may change her parking habits.
"I try to never park in UT-enforced spots (and so walk everywhere) because of negative past experiences with UT Parking," she said. "I probably will stop parking on Volunteer, which I do occasionally when using TRECS late at night."
Officer Zack Mathews of the University of Tennessee Police Department pointed out during a ride-along with The Daily Beacon that the change will increase the number of UT parking spots per parking pass, a figure that measures the relational probability of finding a spot you've paid for.
"If you look at it, too, that's more parking spots added to the fray for UT students to park in," he said, "and it won't be a metered parking spot."
Mathews recalled a similar transition for Phillip Fulmer Way, when the meters by the G10 parking garage were removed and UT took control of the street.
"It's as much UT trying to take it as it is the City trying to give it away," Mathews said. "We take care of the sidewalks and everything anyway."
A non-commuter parking pass to cover Fall and Spring semesters will cost $285 for the 2013-2014 school year; commuter passes cost a little less at $182.
Renting a bicycle from the UT Outdoor Program for a semester costs $20.