Credit: Austin Linthicum | Mustang News

Beginning Fall 2019, Cal Poly will implement permitless parking through technology that scans license plates to determine if a permit was purchased.  

The new License Plate Recognition (LPR) technology was approved by campus Information Technology Service March 6, and is slated to be tested during Summer 2019 so it can be implemented in the fall, Assistant Vice President for Public Safety/Chief of Police George Hughes said.

In order to implement the system, the university needs all of the unions on campus to approve. Currently, Cal Poly has signed agreements with all of the labor unions except for the California State University Employees Union, who they are still conferring with. Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) has also been involved in the process for about three years now, along with the two student representatives on the Parking and Transportation Advisory Council, according to Hughes.

The reason for the change is to make parking on campus more efficient for both the parking department and those utilizing the lots on campus, according to Hughes.

“The end product will hopefully be that you will be able to find a parking space, and on top of that it is more efficient for my folks,” Hughes said.Right now, all of the parking ambassadors are walking around and issuing tickets and visually looking in each vehicle and that is very time consuming and very labor intensive.”

This system will cost approximately $117,000, including hardware and the software, Hughes said. This change is being funded by parking permit revenue in the parking program budget.

Carolyne Sysmans | Mustang News Credit: Carolyne Sysmans | Mustang News

Along with the efficiencies for the permit holder and parking services, it will also help the campus be more sustainable. There will be no plastic used for the permits and no need to mail the permits to the users.

California Faculty Association (CFA) San Luis Obispo President Lewis Call said the new system will be more convenient for faculty because they will be able to register up to five cars on one permit.

“So far, the reaction from faculty has been very positive,” Call said. “Most of the faculty who we’ve heard from believe that the new system will be convenient, and they like the idea that they won’t have to worry about lost permits, improperly displayed permits.”

Philosophy professor and Ethics and Emerging Sciences Group Director, focusing on the risk, ethical and social impact of emerging sciences and technologies, Patrick Lin voiced his concerns with the system after being informed by CFA. Lin said his biggest concerns lie with the privacy of the system and how the data from the license plates can be used.

“Just about any government agency can subpoena this data, including [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], including the Sheriff’s Department,” Lin said. “If they’re looking for … undocumented immigrants, this would be an easy way to catch them and there’s nothing that I’ve seen in the agreement that would prevent it.”  

Despite concerns, Hughes said the technology will collect the same information that has been gathered with the physical permits. He said there has been no issue thus far. If the information was subpoenaed, it would be handled like any other information on campus with their legal counsel.

“We have been collecting the same information and protecting it ever since we have been offering permits so we will still follow the same CSU regulations, state regulations, state and federal law regulations about information privacy especially around sharing information with immigration officials,” Hughes said.

This system is currently in use at CSU San Marcos and CSU Long Beach. According to Call, the CFA president at CSU Long Beach said they have had the program for a year-and-a-half and it is working well.

“He said when they first introduced it there was some confusion, there were a few people who were given citations that should not have been given citations and their parking department was very good about cancelling those improperly issued citations,” Call said. “I have every reason to believe that our parking department would act the same way in a similar situation.”

Hughes said he hopes to see this technology expand in the future to include the ability for users to see the amount of parking spots available in each lot on their phones prior to coming to campus.  

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