In the minutes between classes at UW-Madison, hundreds of students hop on mopeds and scooters to drive from building to building, creating a chaotic scene along with pedestrians and bicyclists.
Now UW transportation officials, citing what they call inefficient and dangerous use by moped owners, are looking to end the practice of students riding between their classes this year by requiring owners to apply for parking in just one of 52 campus lots starting Sept. 1.
The idea is to get moped owners to park in one place and walk or ride buses between buildings, UW Transportation Services Director Patrick Kass said. Owners would have access to that lot, along with seven others around the perimeter of campus.
"We are going to start treating mopeds the same as we do automobiles," Kass said. "They can be used to commute to and from the campus, but not within the campus."
Until this year, a moped parking permit earned an owner access to any moped parking space on campus.
Soon, however, if riders park somewhere other than their lot or an all-access one between 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. they could face a $40 ticket.
University officials say the policy will make UW safer and less congested, but riders say it makes their mopeds "obsolete."
"It's not a matter of laziness, it's a matter of getting some place in time," said sophomore and moped owner Anthony Winchell.
Needed change or too restrictive?
University transportation officials say the change will cut down on traffic and crashes in and around the campus. The area sees 30-40 crashes with injuries involving mopeds each year, according to Transportation Services.
But many moped riders say the new policy is too restrictive, and makes it harder for students to get to classes and jobs that might be on opposite ends of the sprawling campus. More than 850 people have signed an online petition calling on the university to reconsider the policy since it was announced in May.
Winchell signed the petition, and said restricting parking to one space during the day, "pretty much renders mopeds useless."
When he bought a permit this month, Winchell had to choose between a space by his classes on one side of campus and his job at a residence hall on the other.
"When I have to get from a class to work in 20 minutes, it's going to be hard to find a bus," Winchell said, "and it would be much more convenient to have my moped parked outside."
Comments on the petition also bemoaned an increase in permit prices — they will cost $120 this year, up from $85 — for something purchasers believe has less value.
Some signers commented they would protest and not buy a permit.
Transportation Services Marketing Specialist Michelle Bacon said that as of two weeks ago the office had sold 700 moped parking permits. The university sold more than 1,700 last year. Permits went on sale earlier this month, with owners choosing from lots on a first come, first served basis.
Bacon said she expected the office to sell many more as classes start.
For the first week of the new restrictions, which take effect a few days before classes start Sept. 4, Bacon said enforcement will take a back seat to education. Rather than issuing tickets to violators, she said, the office would be leaving brochures with information about the new rules.
Soon enough, though, tougher restrictions will mean that reminder could be replaced with a ticket.