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The economy is tough, a lot of us are suffering from losses of income due to the pandemic, and inflation shows no sign of stopping. Naturally, the last thing you want to spend your money on is parking, especially when each ticket costs the same as five to 10 meals for most students. Let me, an elder Coog, tell you about some of the ways people in my day got around hundreds to thousands of dollars in parking passes, or made the most of the situation. 

(For my own sake assume this is satire. I’m not endorsing any of the methods described below. Everything is fine and no one is mad at parking prices.)

Reuse your parking tickets

I’ve known of a couple of people to do this. Basically, park like you don’t have a care in the world until you get your first ticket. Hold on to it! Just keep reusing the same ticket on your windshield wherever you park. A lazy employee won’t check your plates, just assume the guy from the last shift already got to you and move on. 

This can backfire if you park too early into the first shift of the day. Even the blindest of workers will think there’s something fishy about a car with a ticket before there was anyone on campus to ticket it. Also, you need to switch lots and locations frequently. Knowing someone on the inside helps, especially if they’re a student worker. 

Share a pass or make a pass

With the lame new system being implemented where your plates will serve as your pass, this suggestion may no longer serve you as well as it might have a few years back, but I’ll mention it anyway. Art, architecture and CIS students (AKA the ones who know their way around a computer) were famous for creating parking pass replicas. One person from a friend group would buy a pass, and the group would pay for it together. Then an artsy friend would make copies of the pass so good, they were indistinguishable from the real thing. Of course, this wouldn’t work in a parking garage, but it saved many from starvation when I was an undergrad. 

Befriend the locals

I can vouch for this one. There’s a neighborhood right by the entrance of UH. It’s filled with family homes, each with precious driveway and street parking spaces. Of course, it’s private property, so you can’t just drive up and park at will. However, you could always do what I did in 2018. Show up early. Knock on doors and introduce yourself. Get to know the housewife or friendly granny that’s home during your class time. Maybe offer them a couple of boxes of Kroger’s best-baked goods. Then present them with your parking predicament. Make yourself look small and unsure. Many people will take pity on children. Maybe, just maybe, your charisma will inspire a local to grant you permission to use part of their driveway in exchange for grocery runs or light yard work. It’s worth a try. The worst they could say is no. 

Get a bike

You can park anywhere in Houston if you have a bike to use to get to the University. Please note that Houston isn’t always bike-friendly, so you may be risking your life, especially around 7 to 9 a.m. when all of the angry white-collar workers are rage-driving their way to work, but the savings are worth the risk to your life, in my opinion

Get a motorcycle

Parking passes are only $80. $80! You know, what parking USED to cost back when boomers went to this same university! You could be that cool Coog with the leather jacket and loud hair metal that dramatically takes their helmet off in slow motion right before class. And for only (I repeat) $80. 

Please note, even the safest motorcycle drivers run a greater risk of getting clipped or even killed on the roads. The likelihood of you surviving an accident a car driver could just walk away from is low. Also, Houston weather may be your enemy half of the time you’re on your bike. HOWEVER, parking is only $80… Plus, cremation is cheaper than a regular parking pass, and a swanky funeral is cheaper than tuition. Even better, dead Coogs don’t have to pay back their loans. 

Move your car every 30 minutes

I remember the first 100-person class I took at UH. It was a required course: history. 10 to 15 kids would keep leaving class and coming back periodically. I befriended one of them, and she kindly informed me that the people leaving were running over to their cars to move them before UH parking could ticket them. Genius. If I had to choose between parking and food, I’d be playing this game of musical chairs with UH parking too. 

Take the METRO

This is a method that has been working very well for me. I’ll drive to a park-and-ride, park for free, then pay $1.25 to ride into the University, getting dropped off right in front of Moody Towers. Of course, sometimes people do get crazy, especially at night. But a mean face and a readiness to scream profanities will keep 90 percent of creepy men away from you. Trust me, most people don’t want to deal with someone wilder than they. For the people who don’t deter, pepper spray, hunting blades or cute self-defense accessories are always a great option and easy to carry. Overall the METRO is an excellent mode of transportation. And have no fear, most Houstonians want to be left alone just as much as you do. Plus, if you’re a student, rides are only $0.60! 

Beg mommy and daddy for help

Just when you thought you were free from mom and dad dropping you off at school, you have to resort to this. Chances are this is going to take a lot more out of your parents than grade school drop-offs ever did. College may be further away from home, traffic may be worse and the drop-off may severely impact your parents’ commute. However, this arrangement would be free for you. If you have an hour commute like me, you could nap in the passenger seat. You could also do homework, your make-up or have breakfast. 

Of course, I don’t recommend abusing your parents’ goodwill. But if it works for you, be my guest. 

Live in your car to justify the rent-high prices

I’ll admit I’ve done this before. As a freshman, I started to get heavily involved in a student org. After the day’s activities, I would head off to the library to do homework. By the time I was all done, it was anywhere from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. I live an hour away from campus. So I could either drive home, get maybe two or three hours of sleep, then drive back to campus during rush hour, OR I could just… sleep in my car. I’m admittedly tiny. I sleep like a queen in a sleeping bag across the backseat of my corolla. A capsule wardrobe kept me looking fresh, and the rec was always open for a shower and a  two hour spa session when I needed to wash my hair. Living out of my car half of the week made me feel like I was really getting my money’s worth for that parking pass. And, since I had no commute, I saved even more on gas. 

The downside was how early the sun would wake me up (although I liked to look at it as a built-in alarm). Also, as someone that liked to park by the stadium, since my morning Shipley’s was just a short walk away, things could get a little shady at night. At the start, I had a few people pull on my door or knock on my window, once leading to a heated screaming match since I don’t appreciate being woken up before a midterm. However, if you pass out donuts and let the night-people get to know you, the community will not only accept you, but encourage others to leave you alone. 

I hope these suggestions have been helpful to at least one of you. These parking prices are too darn high, and I’m happy to help guide anyone that might be just getting into college with a similar situation to what mine was. First-gen, full scholarship, barely enough money to budget for food for the week, none left over for books or parking. You deserve better than paying $800 for a pass where someone side-swipes the mirror off your car and UH does nothing about it. Not that it ever happened to me in 2018.

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