“I hate PATS” is what the stickers plastered all over campus last year read. Created by Tomas Chacon and his roommates.
The stickers were created in protest of the Parking and Transportation Services at the University of New Mexico at the beginning of last year, Chacon said.
Currently, the cost of parking at UNM is on the rise. Since last semester, the cost of parking meters on campus has been raised by 25 cents per half hour, totaling $1.75 per half hour with the maximum payment of $28 for 8 hours – $3 more than a parking citation. In April of 2022, parking was a dollar per half hour.
Chacon and his roommates created the stickers after being unable to obtain parking passes last year. Living off-campus and having nowhere to store their cars, not getting parking passes posed difficulties for getting to school and resulted in frequent parking citations.
“(We were) very annoyed, very angry. And so one of us brought up the idea, ‘What if we started silently protesting PATS very anonymously, just to get word out there because we had been talking to people and everybody had the same sentiments,’” Chacon said.
The cost of a parking pass at Central New Mexico Community Campus – which is less than a mile away from UNM – is $7.50 a semester or $17.50 for a full academic year. The cost at UNM for a full year of parking in the Y Lot on campus is $534.
Chacon said after accumulating so many parking tickets last year, he was fearful of getting his car booted, which he said could have interfered with him getting to his internship at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science from campus.
The increase in the cost of metered parking, UNM PATS director Shawn Arruti said, was due to inflation.
“In light of these evolving financial factors, UNM PATS has found it necessary to introduce a measured rate and fee increase this year. This strategic decision ensures that we can uphold the high standards of efficiency within our parking and transportation services and that we can continue to meet the needs of our campus community,” Arruti wrote.
PATS is a self-funded auxiliary department at UNM. Expenses associated with the University’s shuttle buses and wage adjustments for staff also influenced the increase – aimed to ensure equitable access, Arruti said.
“(The increase) was a considered response aimed at ensuring equitable access to parking while addressing operational and infrastructural needs,” Arruti wrote.
Chacon said he was able to secure parking passes this year after waking up to wait in line at PATS the day permits went on sale. He said he wishes there was financial aid for those who might not be able to afford hundreds of dollars for a permit, being in a state where the median household income is $14,418 below the national average, according to the U.S. census.
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“If you’re a New Mexico resident, $500 is a lot of money – a lot of money to spend on something you put on your car,” Chacon said.
After noticing the removal of some of the “I hate PATS” stickers, Chacon said they began to pass out sticker sheets. They gained popularity and other students joined in the silent protest.
“They make their revenue from ticketing poor college students who couldn’t get a parking pass but still need a car on campus. And the amount of tickets I see every day just walking around is still mind-boggling,” Chacon said.
Maddie Pukite is the editor-in-chief at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org on Twitter @maddogpukite