As winter approaches and a blanket of snow begins to coat the streets of Ann Arbor, University students remember the hassles of winters past. Chief among these is the result of the acute parking problem facing the city and the failures of the city to adequately account for the problems associated with wintry weather.
After heavy snows, the city needs to clear the roads immediately. This can be problematic for students who need to move their cars or face a parking fine and having their cars towed. In one storm last year more than 1,000 motorists received $125 tickets for violating Ann Arbor’s emergency snow parking ordinance.
This policy often causes serious inconveniences for University students. In past years, the city has not adequately informed students of its intention to clear the streets. It is unfair for the city of Ann Arbor to hand out parking tickets and tow cars without informing students of its intentions. If given adequate notice, most students would gladly cooperate with this request.
This year, before plowing the streets, the city needs to find better ways to communicate with the student body. Despite the city’s contentions that temporary signs are too expensive, posting signs around the city well in advance of clearing the streets would serve to inform students of the municipal legislation. Electronic resources are also an option that the city should explore in order to disseminate this information. The University can be helpful in this area by announcing on its website when students need to move their cars off the street.
In addition, the city should be more hesitant to ticket and tow cars that students do not move when the city wants to plow the streets. Students may not receive notice that the city wants to plow the streets, or they may not have an alternate area to park their cars while the plows clear the streets. Because of the parking shortage in Ann Arbor, this is a likely scenario. Both the city and the University should be more flexible in allowing students to use their parking facilities during snow emergencies.
Improving communication between students and the city could help solve some of these problems. Ann Arbor should follow the lead of Mayor John Hieftje in this area. Mayor Hieftje has worked to improve the relationship between the city, the University and its student body. He often attends Michigan Student Assembly meetings and other events held by various student organizations on campus. Hieftje understands the importance of codifying these relationships and deserves praise for his efforts.
Perceived callousness by the city toward the University student body does not serve the interests of either Ann Arbor or the University community. Improved communication and notification this winter would serve to smooth over this perception. Clear streets and happy students are not mutually exclusive.