September 20, 2020

BY JOSH BURY

It isn’t uncommon to see or hear about students trying to sell their parking passes. The cost for an annual pass at Conestoga College’s Doon campus is $462, which doesn’t stack up favourably against a lot of other colleges in the province. Parking on Fanshawe College’s London campus, for example, costs $323.50 for two semesters.

Conestoga Students Inc. president Jason Wright has been spearheading talks to have the cost reduced, and while he isn’t giving up, there have been no concessions made by the school so far in the price of parking passes.

But Jeff Hannah, director of Safety and Security at Conestoga College, says that permit resale isn’t the answer, because buyers could end up footing the bill for both the pass that they purchased and a parking ticket.

“As soon as a permit is displayed in a vehicle that it doesn’t belong to, it becomes invalid. It’s as if there wasn’t a permit there … it becomes an invalid permit.”

The elevated price leads some students to consider alternative avenues for getting permits, such as resale and fraudulent passes. But the risks, should you be caught, aren’t worth the possible savings.

“We don’t permit resale because we maintain control of parking sales, we keep records of all the vehicles and people who buy permits … what that allows us to do is to associate a vehicle with a permit,” Hannah says.

In the case of resold passes, the pass is only valid for the original owner’s vehicle. This means the pass will be confiscated by the school and the new owner of the pass will then be ticketed for not having a valid permit. The school also reserves the right to remove your vehicle from the premises.

This linking of the vehicle to the pass also allows Security to offer some additional flexibility to students, Hannah says.

“If you happen to forget your permit one day, you can call us and let us know … and we’ll put you on a list and not give you a ticket.”

Instead of trying to sell the pass to another student, Hannah says students should turn it in to security for a refund once it is no longer needed. Security provides a pro-rated refund based on the date it is returned.

For example, an annual pass refunded on the date of publication of this edition of SPOKE (Dec. 2) would have 60 per cent of the pass’s cost refunded, minus a $30 processing fee, for a total refund of $247.20.

Pro-rated passes can also be purchased when available. Students pay only for the time they will be using the lot.

But many students aren’t aware that they can receive a refund. A student selling his pass on an unofficial Conestoga College Facebook page was asking $200 for one in November, when he could have actually received a larger refund of almost $300 for an annual pass.

Hannah says that allowing students to resell passes without restrictions could create unfair conditions and encourage unlawful behaviour.

“When you create a secondary market (by allowing resale of passes), you incentivize theft.”

It’s not hard to see why. Imagine being unable to purchase a pass at the beginning of the semester due to demand, or being admitted late to a program due to a newly opened seat. Then, someone who doesn’t drive, but bought a pass anyways, is willing to sell one for twice the going rate.

A secondary market is in no one’s best interests, according to Hannah.

“No one comes out ahead in that black market.”

Stolen permits are even worse. A student who is in possession of a stolen permit is in possession of stolen property, and will be referred to the police to face possible theft charges.

“You don’t have to be the person who stole it, but if you have it and you know it’s stolen, you’re committing a crime in Canada.”

Students caught possessing or displaying fraudulent or falsified passes will be fined $250 in addition to the normal penalties for not having a pass. When you look at the cost of an annual pass, the risk just isn’t worth it.
Hannah declined to give specific numbers, but says that incidents involving fraudulent passes are way down – and he credits the increased fees.

“We’ve had a pretty good downturn, actually … this is the first year we’ve been issuing fines for permit fraud.”

Security received authorization to issue the fines directly to students and to have the Department of Student Affairs log the infraction on the student’s file to cut down on paperwork and handling time.

Unpaid fines can lead to revoked parking privileges, even with a valid pass, and even a financial hold that will prevent students from receiving their diplomas.

The college also reserves the right to pursue criminal prosecution or further sanctions.

“Every time we find a fraudulent permit, we’re pulling the strings and trying to find out where it came from.”

He adds he doesn’t have a lot of sympathy for people who get caught because it’s “the type of crime that requires a lot of pre-planning.”

It’s easy to get caught up in all the rules and consequences, but Hannah says the rules are there to protect the honest students who pay for their passes.

“Anybody who plays by the rules and accepts that driving is a privilege … should applaud this. Because the people who are committing fraud are stealing from them.”

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