OSU Nears Rollout Of “Pay By Plate” Parking

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Ohio State's campus has approximately 36,000 parking spots, all of which are controlled and monitored by CampusParc.(Photo: Thomas Bradley / WOSU)

Starting next month, parking on the Ohio State University campus is going to get a lot more…interesting. Gone will be the days of parking attendants trudging around campus to write tickets. OSU’s parking vendor is moving to a system known as Pay by Plate, made famous by the A & E reality show “Parking Wars.”

It’s hard to tell if things will get that heated on the OSU campus. But it might not be out of the question if Pay by Plate lives up to expectations. Imagine the Google Street View car with ticket-writing powers. Steve Gresh is a vice president at LAZ Parking, the private company that oversees OSU’s parking operations.

It has the technology to read the numbers on the license plates, it translates that into our database, and the database is then queried for whether you are or are not a valid parker in the system.

And there are a lot of invalid parkers at Ohio State.

Jon is a ticket writer who asked we not use his last name because he fears retaliation from what he calls scofflaws. He says the system will be a game-changer.

“Just being able to have the computer do some of the work for you…it will track down the scofflaws and stuff like that. It’s been a pretty great tool so far. Instead of having nine guys do the job, you can have just a couple,” Jon says.

Gresh says the new system will also ease the burden for visitors. Instead of the old “pay and display” kiosks, parkers can use a smart phone app or make a call to give their license plate number and make a payment.

The Parkmobile app will be another way visitors can pay for parking on Ohio State's campus.

The Parkmobile app will be another way visitors can pay for parking on Ohio State’s campus.

Cities including Boston, Pittsburgh, and Oakland have seen ticket revenue soar with Pay by Plate. Jon Rouse directs parking operations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which moved to a similar system in January. He says they’re not writing more tickets, although they could. He says the biggest advantage for his department is freed-up staff.

“We actually just transitioned those folks into other positions. We had the ability to do that rather than let go of a good employee. We had some good opportunities for them, and we just made that transition,” Rouse says.

Back on the OSU campus, students interviewed for this story seem OK with cameras snapping pictures of their license plates. Jayson Perkins is a sophomore who parks on campus every day.

I mean as long as they inform all of the people about it. If you know it exists, then you can’t really do a whole lot to stop it.

Graduate student Josh Schulter agrees. As he hurries to class, he says he has little sympathy for faculty and employees who’ll see top parking rates rise to $66 a month under Pay by Plate. He did his undergrad at the University of Arizona in Tuscon, where he says parking can top $100 a month.

“When people are like ‘Oh, it’s $66!’ I just can’t even take them that seriously.”

Steve Gresh from LAZ parking agrees. He says if they just went off demand, parking at OSU would be even more expensive.

“I think there might be more parking demand on campus than there is in downtown Columbus. You can pay up to as much $180 a month for monthly parking in downtown Columbus.”

And to students and others worried about predatory ticket writing, Gresh says if ticket revenue exceeds the cost of operations, that money goes back to Ohio State.

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