So last evening I had a social function to attend to at UBC. Rather than have to bus it all the way home from UBC late at night, I decided to drive to work so I could have the car for the trip home. After work, I make my way to the West Parkade which I’ve parked in many times previously.

Now each time I’ve parked there, I’ve had to pay to enter the parkade. You tell the machine how long you want to stay and then it processes your payment. Afterwards, you can then drive in. This time, however, things were different. I drive up and the machine thingy has changed. It simply says on it, “Press to receive ticket”. Ok, so I press the big green button and it spits out this ticket. I’ve never seen this type of ticket before. Printed on it is “Place face up on dash”. I do as I’m told.

After getting out of my car, I notice other cars have the same type of ticket on the dash. Now I’m wondering when I’ll pay for the privilege of parking in the parkade. I see there’s an attendant in the booth near the exit. I’m thinking they must have changed the system so that the attendant uses your ticket to see how long you’ve parked there and then charges you accordingly.

Then I realize the attendant can stay there all night. They’ve got to go home sometime. So how will they get my money if I leave late? An automated pay system for after hours then? If so, why not use that all the time and not have an attendant? I decide I’ve spent too much time thinking about this and I better get my ass inside SJC where people are waiting for me.

Several hours pass and events occur that may or may not have been photographed in a digital form. It’s about 1am and I leave SJC for the parkade. Now I’m all curious again. I take a slight detour by walking over to the exit arms of the parkade. The attendant is gone. Two of the lanes are for cars with parking passes. There is one lane for visitors which is what I am. In that lane, there’s no machine that you can put any money in or slide a credit card in. There’s no sign telling people what to do if you’re here after hours. There is this “drop box” but I have no idea what it’s for. There are no envelopes nor is there any sign telling you what the rates are.

I walk back to my car, jump in, and drive off to the exit lane. I stop in front of the arm. It raises up. I drive off without paying a dime. As I deal with the torrential rainstorm while driving my mind spins. In this day and age, it’s highly unlikely UBC would ever let anyone do anything for free on-campus that they could charge even a penny for.

It’s possible they could have written down my license plate number and then just send me a bill to my home. That would require them getting my home address from my plate however and that seems like a lot of work (and some privacy issues) for a measly couple of bucks.

The other option that comes to mind is this, they just don’t care about people who leave after the attendant’s shift is over. Many, many years ago, the B-Lots on-campus were staffed with attendants at the exits. Anyone could drive in, but you had to pay when you left. The neat thing was that the attendants were only there until 11pm. After 11pm, if you were still parked you could leave for free. Everyone knew this, so there would be an entire parking lot full of cars with people waiting for 11pm to come around.

Perhaps this is a variation of the old B-Lot loophole. It could be but I’m still very wary of getting something free from UBC. And thus ends my lengthy post on free parking.

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