Stiffer Fines for Parking Violators

SFUAD security recently reminded students that anyone who doesn't have a handicap permit will be subject to a $500 fine from the City of Santa Fe on Thursday September 18, 2014. Photo by Luke E. Montavon/The Jackalope

SFUAD security recently reminded students that anyone who doesn’t have a handicap permit will be subject to a $500 fine from the City of Santa Fe on Thursday September 18, 2014. Photo by Luke E. Montavon/The Jackalope

For those in need of special parking accommodations, being able to access the handicapped spot in front of St. Michael’s Hall and other designated places around campus should be a little easier this year.

Thanks to the efforts of SFUAD Director of Facilities Peter Romero and his staff, those who illegally park in these spots will be facing severe penalties. “We have new signs going up,” Romero explained. “The city of Santa Fe is imposing a $500 fine for violators, and we are instructing SFUAD security to call the police when they observe anyone violating the rule.”

This was welcome news to someone like me. Having physical challenges, I have found SFUAD to be very helpful in accommodating my special needs. However, it has been frustrating to see how others abuse of the special parking that makes navigating campus a bit easier. It also seemed as if repeat offenders acted with impunity because the signs did not bear the standard warnings regarding fines, and I had recently emailed Romero regarding my concerns.

When Romero called me a few minutes later, he informed me that not only were the new signs coming out, but thanks to some sprucing up, the spots themselves will be easier to detect. “If you notice, all the handicapped spots have been repainted.”

Hopefully, the combination of spots being more recognizable and the threat of financial penalties will help alleviate the abuse in particular of the lone handicap spot in front of St. Michael’s Hall. The building’s main entrance is like a gateway to the rest of the SFUAD campus, with the post office, hallway to the cafe, and entrance to the dorms. Here, students wait for the shuttle and deliveries are made.

Perhaps for some, the location—right by the door—is just too tempting. And, even though additional parking is right around the corner by Fogelson Library, security was called several times last year because of those unlawfully parking in the spot.  In our case, security was always quick to respond, but if it wasn’t a repeat offender, several minutes could pass before the car’s owner could be tracked down—and that’s if the vehicle was registered to a SFUAD student.

When a student is rushing to get a meal before class every moment is precious. It’s not as if SFUAD has a PA system like Wal-Mart to simultaneously announce and embarrass over the loudspeaker,  “Would the owner of the beige Taurus, license plate ABC 123 please move your vehicle from the handicap spot? Thank you.”

The same dilemma also has occurred in the on-campus apartments. Interlopers casually used the handicapped spot in front of my own apartment as a loading and unloading area for people and packages.  When asked to move, replies were given such as, “oh, I was only going to be here for a minute,” or “I didn’t know anyone disabled lived here.”

Reactions such as this miss the mark. It’s not about who could potentially need the spot; it’s that the person using it, if only for a moment, has no right to be there.

Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act states that the ratio for parking lots is one handicapped spot for every 25 regular ones, it was welcome news to learn that SFUAD of its own initiative is considering an additional handicapped parking spot in front of St. Michael’s Hall.  “We have more disabled students here this year,” Romero said.

Shortly after our conversation, an email came out from Student Life. The message, from Romero, advised students of the guidelines regarding handicapped parking. There also was a reminder that there is ample parking all over campus and to “please plan accordingly in advance of your classes.” As SFUAD students head into the colder months, perhaps those who once took advantage of the handicap parking spots with no fear of reprisal will have second thoughts. $500 is a lot to pay to avoid walking a extra few feet in the cold.