Universities are hubs for innovation and creativity. And sometimes, this creativity can be used to cheat the system and park for free.
Since the start of 2013, McMaster Parking and Security Services have issued 75 tickets to people who were caught trying to circumvent the parking system.
There are an indeterminate number of students, faculty and visitors whose parking-related mischief goes completely unnoticed and unpunished. And there are plenty of methods being used to beat the system.
Sarah, a McMaster grad, said that she parked illegally all the time.
“My best tactic has been to use a previously issued ticket and put it on my windshield pretending that I had already been ticketed [that day]. Works like a charm,” she said.
A Fleming College student named Dan had a similar tactic. When visiting McMaster to see his girlfriend on weekends, he would park around the west quad, in Lot M, or the one behind Bates Hall.
“Over there, they give you a warning slip before they issue a ticket,” he explained. “I just keep the warning in my glove box, put it in under my windshield wipers when I park, and they just assume someone already gave me a warning.”
Other approaches can be less simple. Justine, a Mac grad, said that she used to use a frying pan to get out of paying for parking.
Her story references the smaller parking lot in front of Ivor Wynne. In that lot, a driver pulls up to the automatic arm and ticket dispenser. A metal detector identifies the car and issues a barcode that says what time the driver arrived at the lot. Upon leaving, the driver is supposed to insert this barcode, and be charged according to how long he or she has been parked there. The driver can then pay using debit or credit.
A stay of less than 15 minutes is free of charge.
Justine invented a scheme one day, when for a reason that is forgotten, she had a frying pan in her car. She thought “If it’s a metal detector, I bet it will pick up this frying pan”.
And so it began. When leaving the parking lot, instead of using the voucher she got when she parked, Justine would go back to the entrance, wave the frying pan in front of the metal detector, and receive a new voucher with that time encoded on it. While exiting, she would simply insert that new voucher into the machine, and being less than fifteen minutes since waving her frying pan, she could leave the lot for free.
“I probably did it 40 or 50 times,” she said. “I didn’t have to pay very often.”
The plot thickened if someone started looking at her waving a frying pan in a parking lot. Of course, she would wait for quiet moments to run over to the metal detector, but if someone did notice her, Justine would call them over, and offer up her secret method in exchange for their silence.
Those without the fortitude to amass a scheme can get away with free parking too. Will Farr, a Kinesiology student at McMaster, told a story of a very simple way to escape parking charges.
“I was walking from Les Prince when I looked over to the parking lot in front of Hedden. I saw a guy in a big, black SUV drive over the curb and turn around the barrier, so he didn’t have to pay for parking.”
Terry Sullivan is the director of Security and Parking Services. He said that his department is doing important work to stop this issue.
“Not paying for parking is theft and we treat is seriously.”
“Parking revenue contributes to the betterment of the University through reconstruction of sidewalks, roadways and bike pads,” said Sullivan.
Anyone caught attempting to scam free parking receives a $75 fine and a suspension of their parking privileges for a month.
Parking lots are regularly monitored by staff and closed-circuit video cameras.
Photo credit: Julia Redmond / News Editor