Two Higher Ed Pros Expand on the TopicTwo of the respondents to our survey expanded on a theme. Jennifer Tougas at Western Kentucky summarized about 90% of the issues and addressed some solutions. Thomas Soulliere at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary appreciates the opportunity to vent after installing new parking equipment.
Western Kentucky's Problems:
Limited Supply, Infinite Demand
At Western Kentucky University, we face the same problems as many other institutions with a limited supply of parking spaces and seemingly infinite demand. Permit holders have the expectation that "because I bought a parking permit, I deserve a parking space."
At the moment, Western sells an unlimited number of permits with no guarantee of finding a parking space.
Customers are very disappointed when the available parking spaces are not convenient or when they are displaced from their preferred parking lots by special events or construction projects. Rather than use an available park-and-ride lot that remains half empty, they prefer to park illegally; or circle a parking lot until a space opens (often 45 minutes to an hour); or park on the city streets, much to the dismay of the local residents.
The most universal solution is to set realistic expectations in the minds of the customers with an aggressive educational campaign. Let the customers know upfront what they are getting. At every opportunity (permit sales, registration information, Web sites, telephone conversations, etc.), remind the customer that a permit does not guarantee a parking space and that parking availability is subject to change. Also, encourage them to use the park-and-ride lots that have plenty of parking.
A second solution is to increase the frequency and reliability of the shuttle service to and from the park-and-ride lot to make it a more palatable option for the customers.
A third solution is to change the policy of unlimited permit sales so that the expectation of the customer is satisfied. This requires the availability of safe alternative transportation methods -- such as carpools, buses, biking and walking -- so that the students can still come to class. (Bowling Green has a limited public transportation system, so this option is limited for Western.)
The most costly solution is to increase availability of parking. At Western, our ability to expand parking capacity on campus is limited because we are land-locked and because of the terrain (we are, after all, the "Hilltoppers"). The only choice for us is to build up, and we are in the process of building a deck that will be open for the Fall 2005 semester. We currently do not have the financial resources to explore the possibility of building additional decks.
There's more to be told, as is always the case in the parking industry, but I hope these comments are helpful to you.
-- Jennifer Tougas, Ph.D Director , Western Kentucky University,
Ahh, a Chance to
Vent to Colleagues ...
Nearly four months ago, we transformed our operation from one using booth attendants in a pay-on-entry system to an automated pay-on-exit system. While we certainly researched in advance and prepared with new policies, signage, etc., a number of issues have come up that we were not completely ready for.
For example, the lack of personnel in the lanes resulted in an unprecedented amount of vandalism -- gates being broken off or pushed up, terminals being tampered with, and drivers tailgating out to avoid having to pay.
This situation has forced us reconsider our means of securing the equipment. We now post staff in the lanes during the rush periods for the purpose of monitoring customer usage and have enlisted Campus Security assistance with the installation of additional cameras.
Meanwhile, we initially thought the break-away barrier feature was going to help us save on replacement costs when faced with the occasional barrier crash. However, it now seems that the ease with which the gates may be lifted for a "free exit" is just too tempting for our customers to resist.
Therefore, our greatest concerns at the moment appear to be customer misuse and vandalism of our recently installed automated parking equipment. Our responses have included an increase of staff and video surveillance, wherever possible given our limited expense budget, and coordination with the Registrar's office on disciplinary measures for those found guilty of such actions.
-- Thomas Soulliere, Manager, Transportation and Residence Operations,
Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Calgary, Canada