Campus adopts new virtual parking permit system


Photo by Abby Costelow

Parking lots remain full to even the furthest parking lots, X, Y, and Z.

Antonio Pequeño, News Editor

As the fall semester begins and students get used to virtual parking permits, complaints about parking continue to bubble up.   

The new virtual system aims to increase purchase convenience, eliminate problems exclusive to physical permits and reduce environmental impact.

The system uses mounted cameras on police vehicles to read license plates. Once captured, the license plate characters are referenced real time against a parking database to confirm that the plate is both valid and in a proper lot. Vehicles will be subject to tickets if their plates, vehicle information or location don’t match a valid virtual permit. The software used in conjunction with the cameras costs $85,000, said Belinda Garcia, CSUSM’s director of parking and commuter Services.

The concept of license plate recognition and virtual parking permits was kicked around among various CSU parking directors a decade ago, said Garcia. But it wasn’t until CSUSM saw dramatic enrollment growth in the past few years that the concept gained traction and turned into reality this summer.

CSUSM is the second CSU to implement the virtual system behind CSU Long Beach who began use in 2016.

When parking a vehicle different from the one assigned to a virtual permit, a student has the option to create a temporary permit through an online parking account. Two vehicles registered to the same permit cannot be on campus at the same time. The exception to this rule is for a driver to buy a parking pass for the second vehicle.

Not everyone finds the new system convenient.

“I get it they wanna reduce waste by going fully online, but for people who use multiple vehicles/share passes/carpool/every other reason other than waste management or whatever — it’s just not reasonable,” said fourth-year student Nica Angel in a Facebook comment.

While the virtual system eliminates the grumbling over the need to stand in a long line to buy a parking permit, it hasn’t stopped the complaints over what is seemingly a lack of parking from the 6,139 general parking spaces that CSUSM currently offers.

“I’ve been attending csusm for the past 3 years, and honestly I’ve never [before] dealt with having to spend 30-plus [minutes] having to look for parking in Lot F and Parking Structure 1,” commented CSUSM student Perla Curie. “I don’t know if it was just because it was week one and it can be a little crazy the first week.”

Third-year student Jessica Novakovskaya offered a similar complaint.

“On Wednesday (8/29) I spent 30 min looking for parking (I went through Lot F, Parking Structure 1, [Lot N], and finally found someone leaving in Lot C) and was late for my class, along with about 15 other people in my class,” she commented.

Addressing parking capacity, Garcia said, “It’s not so much that we don’t have parking available. It’s just usually not where the students want it to be.

“… I don’t want to minimize the idea that there are problems, but we at Cal State San Marcos are at an incredible luxury in that once we get past the add/drop period, we have probably 500 to 800 spaces open on a daily basis.”

CSUSM is also building a new parking structure on East Barham Drive.

“It’s gonna be a total of 709 parking spaces. It is going to be a shared use parking structure. Some of the spaces have been funded by a private developer and some of the spaces will actually be owned by CSUSM,” said Garcia.

Out of the structure’s 709 parking spots, 500 will be available for CSUSM students. The caveat, according to Garcia, is that students will not be allowed to utilize the spaces for overnight parking.

For more information on Parking and Commuter Services visit An FAQ for virtual permits and license plate recognition can be found at