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Building a Parking and Transportation System on a College or University Campus?

Robert Harkins

Over the last few decades, there has been a shift on the nation’s college and university campuses. For a very long time, parking problems were solved by disregarding their existence or by adding spaces or adjusting locations to accommodate expanding faculty needs. But in today’s world, ignoring a parking problem will not work. Additionally, the lack of property to expand or adjust makes that solution not feasible.
Today, the handling of parking is of great concern to all college administrators. Unhappy faculty, upset staff or disillusioned students are vocal and demand to be heard. The expectation is that the campus parking office develops a system that addresses parking, mass transportation, alternative transportation modes, bicycling and walking. These must be assessed and a complete system developed for the campus and surrounding communities. The day and age of the parking office being a “cash cow” back office buried in another department are over. The prices of fuel, land and construction are driving colleges and universities to develop parking and transportation systems to service the campus and surrounding areas.
This article will lay out the underpinning structure that should be devised before a viable parking and transportation system can be developed. I have used the tenets of organizational planning found in FranklinCovey’s “The 4 Roles of Leadership” to frame the developmental process. The question is where to begin.
Of greatest importance to the success in this endeavor is to understand university governance. There must be a solid understanding of how your campus works. For changes to be made in the historic or traditional parking system; there should be broad-based support. A committee that represents the interests of staff, faculty, students and visitors should be appointed by the college or university president. Members of the committee and the parking office need to understand its role and function.
Rooted in the establishment of a parking and transportations system, is “the parking philosophy.” Underlying rules and regulations must be the basis for the system. Additionally, all must understand the need for rules to manage the campus. But it also must be noted that the underlying raison d’etre of the parking office is to make things work. There are rules, but there must be flexibility in the administration of those rules.
The committee and the parking office should create a vision that connects the customer with the services offered. There must be a definition of where they are going and how to get there. It is important to determine who is important to the parking and transportation system. These stakeholders are the ones that benefit from the service, those that empower, the competitors, and all considered in the current environment.
The committee must ensure that there is participation at all levels. There must be full engagement, and the committee and the parking office must listen. What are the tasks that must be accomplished and what skills are needed? There should be an environment that creates, fosters and releases creativity, talents and abilities. Parking situations and rules should create a “win – win” situation.
The committee should do an in-depth “SWOT” analysis. This process will address the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that exist in the community. The goal is to turn weaknesses into strengths and threats into opportunities.
From this initial analysis should come the creation of some core documents that form the basis for the strategic plan for the parking and transportation system of the campus.
Vision: The vision for the parking and transportation department should describe the path forward and be a statement of where it is going. It must be a statement that is clear and distinct.
Mission: The development of the mission statement is an important step in the formation of a cohesive parking and transportation department. The process of involvement and empowering may be as important as the final product.
Values: Selecting the values that represent the department is very important. They must create an attitude and provide a base from which employees always operate. Key words such as service, leadership, innovation, creativity, excellence, communication, adaptability, professionalism, integrity and teamwork provide a basis to any decision or action by the department head or the attendant on the street.
Goals, Objectives, Metrics: To accomplish the mission, there must be goals, objectives and metrics that can be used to judge progress.
Goals are broad statements that describe what a unit is going to accomplish or achieve. They are usually not measurable but set a general tone for the organization.
Objectives also are broad statements that contribute to the accomplishment of the stated goal. Objectives are accomplished by specific tasks that must be completed to be successful. Unlike goals, objectives are measurable.
Metrics are the means used to judge and determine if objectives and thus goals are being accomplished. The important aspect of metrics is that they actually measure the accomplishment or lack of accomplishment of the specific task or objective.
The establishment of a parking and transportation department must have the basis of a strategic plan as listed above. The department for a university should address the needs of the campus. This includes parking for faculty, staff, students, and visitors. This includes those parkers with disabilities. Certainly the needs of the community during normal school hours are important. But the department’s strategic plan also must address special event parking and how the campus is serviced.
Within the laws of the state or local jurisdiction, the parking and transportation department must be responsible for enforcement and traffic control within parking facilities.
As mentioned, the system must include all modes of transportation. Land costs money, garages cost money, and parking is not free or cheap. The entire transportation system must be evaluated. The blend of modes that forms the basis of the needs for the campus is essential to be defined and explained.
Having done all the ground work listed above, the crucial step is to communicate and publicize the plan and the program. If decisions are reasonable and make sense, the community will accept them.
But the key is to make certain that the campus community understands the strategic plan, that parking employees feel empowered to provide a service, and that the quality of service provided is valued by all. Parking is not rocket science, but planning and communications are vital to the success of a parking and transportation system.
Reference:
Covey, Steven, 1999, The 4 Roles of Leadership, Salt Lake City, Utah, Franklin Covey.
Robert Harkins is Associate Vice President for Campus Safety and Security at the University of Texas, Austin. He can be reached at bharkins@austin.utexas.edu

Article Abstract from May, 2008




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