Starting this fall, UNC Charlotte will use license plate recognition (LPR) technology instead of physical permits to verify a vehicle’s right to park. Photo by Alexandria Sands.

UNC Charlotte drivers will no longer have to hang physical parking permits in their vehicle windows, starting this fall.

Instead, students, faculty and staff will be able to enter and exit parking lots and gates using just their license plate.

The University is in the process of installing new license plate recognition (LPR) technology. The system should be functional by the start of fall semester.

Parking and Transportation Services (PaTS) decided to make the change after the company that made the previous equipment was bought by a larger conglomerate that decided not to reinvest in the old technology. PaTS saw this as an opportunity to find a new system that would support campus growth, mainly by ensuring that parking is only given to those who have paid for it.

When a vehicle without a permit enters a lot or deck, the new system will notify PaTS immediately.

In addition, the new system will make it easier for PaTS to accumulate more accurate data that will help them understand how parking is being utilized. PaTS can use this data to make well-informed decisions, such as whether or not they should build more parking options.

Until the installation is complete, drivers parking on campus will have to use their 49er ID cards at contactless readers to enter gates and lots. The option will still be available after installation as a second credential, in case LPR fails.

With the new system’s advantages comes it’s disadvantages. Drivers will not be allowed to back into spaces without the use of an additional front plate, that PaTS will be selling for $30. PaTS says they needs to be able to view the front plates in order to assist with locating vehicles for enforcement and safety purposes.

The front plate alternative would be a one-time expense, unless the plate becomes illegible.

“Most institutions and municipalities who launch LPR systems similar to ours do so without a front plate alternative. They just flat-out enforce no backing-in to spaces. We didn’t want to do that here,” Director of PaTS Douglas Lape said.

There are other advantages to the adoption of the new technology. For one, customers won’t have to pick up a physical permit, meaning no more waiting in long lines.

“In our estimation, the positives to the system far outweigh the negatives. I’m confident that, once the system is in place and our customers get used to it, they’ll feel the same way,” Lape said.

With this change, PaTS is also introducing a new web portal and app that will be allow drivers to switch their vehicles without having to contact the PaTS office directly. Drivers will also have the option of purchasing single-day permits online.

Permits can now be paid for by semester, a request the PaTS office had been receiving for years.

LPR is becoming more available globally, with some locations utilizing it in Uptown Charlotte, according to Lape.

The 2017-18 school year will be the fourth year in a row that parking permit costs have remained the same. Lape said that PaTS tries to keep parking costs “in-check.”

Alexandria Sands is the Niner Times' community editor. She is a senior majoring in Communication Studies with a double minor in Journalism and English. Her work has been published in Charlotte magazine, The Charlotte Business Journal, Creative Loafing, The Gaston Gazette, The Shelby Star and The State Port Pilot. When she's not in the newsroom, you can catch her reading a book at her home in Oak Island. Reach her at or @alexsands_.


  1. It seems like with less staff time needed to help distribute passes and less plastic for the passes themselves, the price would go down. At least with the badge for my mirror I feel like I get something for nearly half a grand.

  2. I agree with Samuel as noted above. SOAR 2009 presentations bragged that UNCC had all the space they “could ever need” for expansion and convenient student/staff parking as well as they could “almost promise” parking rates would remain @ current rates for at least 10 years. Let’s just say this is just another bit of incorrect info provided to get students in the door.

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