The City of Austin has a little-known policy which has been keeping drunk drivers off the streets for quite some time. If you drive to downtown entertainment districts and park in a City space, you have three options: The first is to designate a sober driver to bring you home. But as we know as UT-Austin students, this is often easier said than done. The second is to use the yellow “next day” button on parking meters, to buy time for the next morning if you plan to leave your car overnight in a city spot. But what if you forget to do that or don’t anticipate leaving your car downtown? Well, the City has a third option for you: They will waive the citation for leaving your vehicle parked on the street, provided you can show the receipt for the method that got you home the night before. Policies like this, coupled with the rise of Uber and Lyft, are among those elements that de-incentivize driving under the influence. But on the University of Texas campus, those rules are a little murkier.
Take, for instance, my own experience with UT PTS last Thursday. I drove into a UT garage at around 2 p.m., fully intending to leave later that evening, at a cost of around $15. However, I ended up going to a bar with friends after a long day of work and took a Lyft home. When I made it back to campus the next morning, I found that my parking fee was upwards of $30. For some students, an extra $10 to $18 is a lot of money to pay to get home safely. And while many students don’t have experiences like these, UT PTS should provide a method for lowering these costs, mainly so some don’t become incentivized to drive home when they shouldn’t.
The same goes for students parking with an N+ or C+ pass, who have limited access on weekdays. If they fail to swipe out by 4 a.m. on, say, a Friday morning, they may be forced to pay a $15 fee to re-sync their permit — something which may provide a monetary incentive for students to drive home under the influence. Even those parking for football or basketball games could be affected — especially with beer and wine sales in operation at major sporting events. While parking on campus, there should be a policy in place that lets drivers know that they won’t be on the hook for exorbitant parking fees if they make the safe choice to get home.
Perhaps policies like these already exist, or operate on a case-by-case basis, but they should be codified and publicized to let students, faculty and staff know about safe options getting home. While these issues are by and large not experienced by most students, UT should follow the City’s lead and ensure that those who act responsibly have recourse to avoid paying extra fees for keeping the public safe.
Fountain is a government senior from Pelham Manor, New York. Fountain is the Forum Editor. Follow Fountain on Twitter @wf_atx.