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Friendly, not…

A subscriber recently posted the following question to the CPARK-L list:

“Does anyone have a policy that allows students to park free during summer class time? I have a student that wants me to assist her in an English class assignment and proposal to do exactly that.”

Free Parking? That is one of the worst four-letter words in this or any language.  In fact, I think it was George Carlin’s eighth banned word, but he had to cut that routine down to 3:05 to make it onto a record.

The response from around 15 or so institutions was a resounding, “No!” Ann Szipszky of Seton Hall put it quite succinctly, “Oh dear, NO! Free parking for everyone would create a nightmare situation for us, not to mention the pleas in the fall, ‘But no one charged me in the summer,’ ‘I didn’t need a permit in the summer, why do I need one now?’ and then there is always, ‘No one told me I needed to buy a permit, I parked for free all summer.’ Free summer parking would be scary, very scary.”

Even if someone else is subsidizing “free” parking, it sets the parking office up for a bad beginning of fall semester. And what happens to the subsidizing agency or group when fall semester rolls around? Who has control over and responsibility for the bank?

No matter what time of the year, operating a parking lot (and all the attendant activities that go into that effort such as office staff, utilities, maintenance, enforcement, etc.) continue.  Would this student approach the council of academic deans to request a tuition waiver during the summer? After all, not all the classrooms are full over the summer and class sizes typically run smaller than in other semesters.

I was reminded of a favorite parking quote when I saw this post: “Parking should be friendly, not free.” This phrase was coined by Rina Cutler who ran several municipal parking systems, and who even created a bumper sticker with it–one of her stickers hung over my desk until the day I retired.

There are times when you may have to accommodate an event (a Presidential visit comes to mind) with free parking, but, in my humble opinion, “free” parking is the antithesis of good parking management.

Sorry, this just reminded me of the good old days prior to retirement.

About Doug Holmes, CAPP

Doug Holmes, CAPP, is interim director, Transportation, Penn State – Retired. He serves on the IPI Advisory Council, is Co-Chair of the Professional Certification/CAPP Committee, and a member of the Professional Development Task Force.


  1. Scott Kangas says:


    While I totally agree, there were 2 that did reply that they do offer free parking during the summer. It ruined my response to the student! –
    1. At the University of XXXXX we allow free parking during summer and all academic breaks (winter, thanksgiving, etc.) in the residential lots and all commuter lots except for the highest valued lots.

    2. The only time that we are free is the month of June. We have new student
    orientation every day during the month of June and we do not ticket during
    at time for “no permit”. The rest of the year permits are required.

  2. John Shaheen says:


    Thanks for the reminder. I remember Rita’s quote and it is a great, short slogan that speaks volumes.


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