Parking Services director answers students' questions on Reddit

Last week, the Parking Services Director answered student's parking questions on Reddit (photo courtesy of Parking Services).
Last week, the Parking Services Director answered student's parking questions on Reddit (photo courtesy of Parking Services).

Last week, Josh Cantor, director of parking and transportation, answered students’ questions in an online forum on the website Reddit. Questions focused on the high cost of parking and future plans of expansion.

Reddit is a massively popular social media site, the self-proclaimed “front page of the internet.” One of its most popular features is an AMA, or Ask Me Anything, forum where a celebrity, person with an interesting job or someone in a position to offer helpful advice from an inside perspective will answer any question regarding their field.

The top-rated question on Cantor's AMA concerned the high cost of parking on campus. Cantor responded:

“Parking & Transportation is a self-funded auxiliary-like Housing, Dining, bookstore. We get no tuition dollars nor any of the funds from the state budget that come to Mason. Thus we have to generate enough revenue to cover expenses. Currently we have about $15 mill annually in expenses. $6 million is debt-service (essentially a mortgage payment) to pay bonds on past construction.”

When asked whether there were long-term plans to remove the lots and replace them with full parking decks, Cantor responded that the parking and transportation office had no immediate plans.

“Very long term (say 30–50 years) all lots might be gone. In current plans through 2020, we could lose Lots H (for Academic VII building), Lot I (another phase of housing),” Cantor wrote. “Not to say it won't ever happen, but it will be a long time before all lots are gone and replaced with decks.”

One of the more popular questions was on how to avoid getting a parking ticket on campus on weekends.

“Technically, a permit is required at all times,” Cantor wrote, “However, we don't normally enforce general lots for a permit-thus a visitor could park in a lot unless it’s been designated for some use. Reserved lots such as I, R are enforced all the time, as are state regulations such as disabled spaces, fire lanes, etc.”

Cantor also commented on the confusion over when permit hours are enforced.

“Just weekends and after 11pm on weeknights (we only have one person working 11pm-6am),” Cantor wrote.

The increasingly popular GMU sub-reddit has hosted similar AMA’s in the past. The Mason Card Office answered questions regarding Meal Plans and Mason Money last month. In particular, the Mason Card Office highlighted a 15 percent off deal at The Green Turtle in Fairfax for students with Mason ID’s. There is also a popular AMA request for President Cabrera.

In addition, the GMU Network Office frequents the GMU sub-reddit to address technical issues. On Jan. 30, the office posted a guide to students experiencing issues with MASON-SECURE:

“NET is working on trying to find a way to keep these drops from happening, however, one thing that has been found is that some systems/device vendors set the configurations to prefer open networks. That is why a device will switch from MASON-SECURE to MasonResNet. To fix this, have your system forget all the wireless networks other than MASON-SECURE.”

Following the AMA, Cantor gave an interview by phone, where he clarified some confusion that had been discussed in the comments on of a previous Connect2Mason article regarding charging stations for electric vehicles.

“Our department was given the stations through a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we didn’t use a single penny of student funds for those. The only cost came through installation. So we took the stations being offered for free rather than wait and have to pay for them, and still have to charge the same installation costs,” said Cantor. “We know there’s not a huge market for electrical cars right now, but that’s largely because there aren’t stations for it. It’s a chicken and egg type situation, but we’re planning for the future. We’re starting to see more off campus students use them already, and people charge their cars when they come for events at the Patriot Center.”

The AMA aimed partially to clarify what Cantor says is a misconception about his organization.

“There’s this perception that we’re making a ton of money,” Cantor wrote. “We don’t get any money from the general budget... We’ve had parking forums in the past to address concerns like this, but they had… less than stellar attendance.”

Cantor commented that while he enjoyed the overall experience, his office and others are swamped with new forms of social media and it’s difficult to keep up. However, he added, “we’re always looking for ways to interface more as the opportunity arises.”

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