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Students fined hundreds of dollars for not moving cars for football games, not excused for inability to pay

<p>The Blue Zone is a popular parking lot for undergraduates living on West Campus.</p>

The Blue Zone is a popular parking lot for undergraduates living on West Campus.

Football is back, and with it comes frustration with Duke Parking and Transportation Services.

Sophomores, juniors and seniors living on West Campus or off-campus may purchase a parking permit for the nine parking lots that comprise the Blue Zone. Permit holders are required to move their cars to a different location before 6 a.m. on the days of home football games.

Violators of this policy are fined $230, according to the Duke Parking website. The cost of a Blue Zone parking permit is $423 annually.

Students parked in the Blue Zone can move their cars to the H lot, about a mile away from campus, or the Smith Warehouse South lot next to East Campus. They must move their cars back into the Blue Zone before 6 a.m. Monday. 

Sophomore Henry Holbrook said that what frustrated him the most was that Duke Parking did not make it clear to him when he purchased his Blue Zone permit that he would have to move his car for home football games. He said that he had to do some digging to find out where exactly this policy was stated.

“There’s a website with all the policies linked to the registration form for the parking permit,” Holbrook said. “There’s a number of sections to the website, and sure enough, in one of them, it said that you have to move your car whenever there’s a football game here.” 

Holbrook felt that Duke Parking “hid” the game day policy within a larger list of more obvious ones. 

“Many of the policies [I read] were reasonable in that they were to be expected. They were ‘don’t park on the sidewalk’ or ‘make sure you’re parking within a space every time,’” Holbrook said. “Unless I read every single line in that huge document, I would have no way of knowing that I would have to move my car every other week.” 

Carl DePinto, director of Parking and Transportation Services, did not respond to The Chronicle’s request for comment.

Sophomore Alex Migala felt similarly that it was not clear that students who bought parking passes would be required to move their cars for football games. 

“Perhaps it is very deep in the legal speak, but they don’t tell you upfront that you [have to] move your car,” Migala said. “I figured that I got the pass, paid to be in the spot, so I’ll stay in the spot.”

Migala added that he was never told what the monetary penalty would be if he were to leave his vehicle in the Blue Zone during a home football game. When he did leave his car overnight, he was charged $255 in total, a fine equivalent to over 60% of the annual rate. 

Migala explained that he is on significant financial aid and has asked for the charges to be overturned or reduced. 

“The citation was $100, the towing fee was $130 and the daily impound fee was $25,” Migala said. “I have since appealed all three of these charges.”

Migala does not believe that his appeal will be successful because his reason for appeal—that it would be hard for him to pay the fine—is not a reason that Duke Parking considers. “Inability to pay the fine” is specifically listed as an invalid reason to appeal. Other invalid reasons include “lack of knowledge of parking policies” and “lack of knowledge of an event in your designated facility (failure to check email).” 

Migala appealed anyway, hoping that it would make Duke realize that these fines can pose a significant burden, especially for someone on financial aid.

“I’m on a work study. My income is about $10 an hour, so $255 greatly exceeds my income for a while. It chews up approximately half a month’s worth of income before taxes. So I appealed,” Migala said. “Hopefully, that does make them understand that that’s a lot of money.” 

If his appeal is denied, Migala said that he will have no choice but to pay the fine. If he does not, he was told that his registration for next semester will be blocked.

Duke’s parking fines are listed on their website and range from five dollars for a bicycle and scooter collection fee to $250 for parking in a handicapped space, parking in an ambulatory space or damaging metal gates.

If you receive a ticket and wish to appeal the citation, you must do so within 15 days, according to the Duke Parking website. Appeals must be submitted online through My Parking Account. Ticket recipients also have the option to present an oral argument to an Appeals Committee of Duke students and employees. There is no re-appeal process.

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