New parking system adds credit card payment, license plate 'virtual' permits

Police officer with license-plate scanning cameras

Aaron Steffen, parking enforcement supervisor, explains how the license plate-recognition cameras mounted on the roof of parking vehicles will make permit enforcement more efficient for his team. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Starting this summer, faculty and staff will be able to purchase a "virtual" parking permit and pay citations through an online portal. The portal is part of a system upgrade the parking division made to improve efficiencies in its operations and provide convenience for customers. With a few exceptions, vehicle hangtags for the rearview mirror will go away, replaced by license plates.

"The days of moving a permit between your personal vehicles, or appealing a 'no permit' citation are gone," said parking director Mark Miller. "We think faculty, staff and students will find our new system flexible and easy to use year-round, not just at renewal time."

Online service

In May, permit holders will receive an email from the parking division containing a link to the new portal on the parking division website. The permit holder's name, university ID, and office address will be shown. Employees need to confirm or update their contact information and provide up to five valid license plates to be associated with that permit for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The virtual permits available for purchase will display on the permit page.

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FAQ on using the new ISU parking portal

Payroll deduction will remain a payment option for permits. The new system accepts credit cards, but paying through a U-Bill no longer will be an option for parking permits. A follow-up email from parking will confirm permit holders completed the process and have purchased a "virtual" permit.

Fines associated with parking tickets -- both permit holders and campus visitors -- also can be paid on the portal (within 30 days), and permit holders can update their vehicle and license plate information at any time.

Parking permit holders who leave the university will simply send an email to and their permit will be canceled that day; there's no need to turn in a hangtag to cancel a permit.

New technology: license plate recognition

Miller said many large public universities are switching to license plate recognition in lieu of hangtag or sticker permits. The technology provides greater flexibility to permit holders, but it also achieves cost savings and adds efficiency to the process of patrolling parking lots. Iowa State's system will involve license-plate scanning cameras mounted on parking vehicles that can read hundreds of license plates in the time it takes to drive through a lot. All of the data is processed immediately in a cloud-based system, flagging vehicles that either aren't registered in ISU's parking system or don't have a virtual permit for that lot.

The system also alerts parking officers if two vehicles registered to the same permit are parked on campus within a two-hour window. Spouses and domestic partners who have registered the same vehicles on separate permits don't trigger this alert. However, the system won't allow a permit holder to register a vehicle already assigned to another permit, so parking staff will need to link the two permits. One of the spouses/partners should call (515-294-3388) or email the parking office to designate which vehicles are primary and secondary on each permit.

Miller said the new system will save his staff time beyond just patrolling lots. For example, last year, there were 675 incidents of valid permit holders not displaying their permit and receiving a citation. Those instances cost administrative time to appeal and correct, he noted.

Three hangtags remain active

For any vehicle the system flags, Miller said his staff then checks for the presence of a hangtag before issuing a citation. Three types of hangtags will remain in use on campus: Medical, vendor and departmental. Medical permit renewals can be purchased through the new portal. New medical permit requests will need to be processed at the parking office since the permit requires a valid DOT medical placard.

Departmental permits, nearly all of which are purchased with a Worktag or grant number, still must be purchased on the parking division website. Miller noted that departmental permits also tend to be shared among a team of employees, making it less likely all relevant vehicles are registered with the permit. Vendors also will continue to purchase their permits on the parking division website.

Visitors to campus

As is the case now, visitors to campus are encouraged to arrange for parking in advance of their arrival. They will have the option to register their license plate through the portal or print a dashboard permit (as they do now). Visitors may park in general staff and student lots for $5 per day.