Many students unaware of snow emergency violations


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With snow in the forecast, University of Iowa students should watch where they park their cars — or face a $50 fine — and city officials say they want to increase awareness about regulations.

In November 2009, the Iowa City City Council voted to increase fines for violating the snow-emergency ordinance from $15 to $50, the amount needed to tow a car.

Many UI students unaware of the rules were surprised to find their cars towed last winter. Between two snow emergencies last year, the city issued 777 citations, bringing in $38,500.

Though a year has gone by since the change, it seems many students are still uninformed.

City Councilor Susan Mims said she plans to contact city staff today about coordinating with the university to send out a mass e-mail to students.

"Anything we can do to increase awareness about snow emergencies is to everybody's benefit." she said. "It helps to ensure people understand and comply to the regulations."

During a snow emergency, the city requires cars to remain off certain areas of streets so plows have room to get through. On streets that normally have odd-even parking, the usual evening and Sunday exemptions no longer apply. On streets that allow parking on one side of the street only, parking is allowed on the even side on even dates, the odd side on odd dates. On streets that allow parking on both sides, odd-even parking takes effect.

City officials said they made the change to ensure more efficient plowing during snow emergencies.
But many University of Iowa students said they were unaware of the change.

Laura Brown, a nursing student at the UI, said she isn't too familiar with snow emergency policies.

The 20-year-old, who will stay in Iowa City for a few days over Christmas break, said she'd like to know more information.

"I'm slightly concerned only because I don't know what to expect," she said.

As of now, community members can find out if a snow emergency has been declared by either visiting the Iowa City website and subscribe to the city's e-mail or text alerts, as stated on the website.

"The key thing to do is to check the website," Director of Transportation Services Chris O'Brien said, noting the simplicity of registering online for the text and e-mail alerts. "So when snow does occur, [students] will have information prior to the snow."

City officials recently established a Twitter feed dedicated to announcing Iowa City snow emergencies. So far, the account is pretty inactive; test Tweets have been posted since the beginning of December, and the page has only three followers.

Areas not affected by snow emergencies include metered parking spaces and downtown.

The city's website does have information for community members on where to go and what to do including alternate parking, calendar parking, and emphasizes "know before the snow."

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