Dalhousie parking offenders get the boot

Dalhousie follows the lead of universities like Saint Mary’s and 'tire-lock' repeat parking offenders.

Security at St. Mary’s University got the idea for using boots to enforce parking from Acadia University, where they implemented the system first. Photo: Peter Marrack

Commuters at Dalhousie University who accumulate four or more parking tickets on campus risk having their vehicles “tire-locked.” Or how those in the know word it: They get the boot.

As of September 1, Dalhousie security locks a hunk of yellow metal onto the rim of improperly parked vehicles, with a longer adjustable arm that lodges itself under the tire – preventing the vehicle from moving. The lock goes on on your fourth offence and on every offense after that.

“The new system is cheaper for everyone,” says Dalhousie spokesperson Charles Crosby. “Before we would have cars towed and it would cost students around $100 to get their vehicles back from the impound.”

Crosby says on top of paying the accumulated parking fines ($20 each), drivers with the boot must fork over an additional $75 for campus security to go out and remove the lock. Campus security is on call 24 hours a day.

Dalhousie implemented the boot system, says Crosby, after a hectic attempt at limiting general “hunt and park” passes last year – which allow pass holders to park their vehicles in any Dalhousie lot during set times. Commuters expressed concern over the exceedingly restrictive times they could park in those lots.

So, Crosby says they opted for the boot instead.

“September and October are high traffic months… This year we’ve added the boot and improved the U-Pass for staff as well as students. Basically this is a heavily discounted bus pass. We’re also encouraging other forms of transportation, like bikes.”

Crosby adds that it’s too early in the school year to determine whether the boots discourage students from parking where they’re not supposed to.

Students’ Reactions

Mike Douglas, a second year economics student at Dalhousie, says he hadn’t heard about the boot, but he only has one ticket on his record so he’s not concerned.

“The idea make sense,” he says, speaking through the rolled-down window of his compact car in the parking lot that services Howe Hall and the Sir James Dunn Building. Douglas says he doesn’t have a pass for this lot, but “it’s raining today and I don’t want to get wet.”

“They need more parking,” he says. “Sometimes I have to park up on those side streets.” Douglas points over the embankment, beyond Cobourg Road, to Chestnut and Walnut Street.

Other schools

Dalhousie isn’t the first university in Halifax to try the boot system. St. Mary’s University has been using the system for the past four years and security manager, Lonnie Ratchford, says it’s been for the better.

Security manager at SMU, Lonnie Ratchford, says security guards were trained to attach and detach boots to automobiles. Photo: Peter Marrack

“Parking has improved. People now realize if they park where they’re not supposed to, they’re going to get penalized,” says Ratchford. “You need something to deter people from accumulating 30 plus tickets. If we didn’t have the deterrent, no one would pay.”

Ratchford says at SMU commuters who violate parking policy and accumulate up to three tickets are subject to a warning. If the vehicle is still parked improperly the next day, they will get the boot.

At SMU, parking tickets cost $15 and security will remove the boot for an administrative fee of $50 – slightly cheaper than Dalhousie. They too operate 24 hours a day.

Ratchford says they got the idea for the boot from Acadia University, who did it first.

Into the future

So far, Crosby says only one person at Dalhousie has gotten the boot – a repeat offender – but activity at SMU suggests those numbers may increase.

Just Wednesday morning, SMU security was out patrolling the parking lot outside The Atrium next to Inglis Street. They had locked two vehicles with the boot, including one Toyota 4Runner, strewing caution tape over the hoods and posting notices on windows.  

The 4Runner belongs to Kathleen Watts, an oil and energy student at SMU. Watts, who lives on the northern end of Robie Street, could not be reached for comment. As of this morning, her car is still booted at SMU.

Ratchford would not say how many vehicles have been booted over the years.

HRM parking enforcement says they opt not use the boot for efficiency reasons; there are too many spaces to enforce and drivers don’t tend to abandon their cars in undesignated spots for days at a time.