A Different Look at Parking on College Campuses
Building garages on college campuses seems to be where the parking facility construction money is going these days. Parking garages are popping up on campuses like freeloaders popping up at the latest keg party.
Back when I went to college (and the fraternity next door was under double secret probation – it’s been that long!), campus parking was in the street or in the small lot next to the dorm. Parking garages were reserved for the big buildings downtown. Now garages are the big buildings on college campuses.
The college student is busy with work, study and play on the daily “to do” list. Like the active college student, the modern day campus garage also has to multitask and provide more than just parking. That has caused the programming of these facilities to become much more challenging.
Parking garage uses have changed in many ways.
Use: A building in which to park cars
Traditional: Provide a place for parking cars.
Modern: Provide a place for parking cars and generating electricity via roof-mounted photovoltaic cells.
Use: A utility source
Traditional: Supply electricity to security golf carts so they pollute less when scooting around campus.
Modern: Supply electricity to Segways so they pollute less when being driven around campus. This doesn’t differ much from the traditional use, but Segways are so much cooler than golf carts!
Use: Space for additional activities
Traditional: Provide a welcoming hideout where students can engage in amorous or illicit activities.
Modern: Offer welcome centers for greeting new students and parents to the campus.
And, provide a space for a police station to provide security for the campus and to rid the area of those illicit activities.
Not only have the traditional uses of parking facilities been changing, their design has been evolving as well. Many early campus garages were designed like typical office garages with park-on-ramp systems for maximum efficiency and scissored ramping, even when the garage was only 4 to 5 levels tall. However, with the many new programming requirements, the modern college garage can present design challenges that require new ideas and innovative solutions. Some comparisons follow:
Traditional: The garage was designed so that the maximum number of spaces was crammed into a given footprint. Little thought was given to making the facility easy to use. Students sometimes wandered for (what seemed like) days in search of spaces, even if plenty were available in the other parking circuit. Why do you think so many students drove big trucks back then? They were the only vehicles that could hold enough gas for the weekly parking search.
Modern: While still being efficient and inexpensive, garages also need to accommodate technology that will give users the closest/quickest route to an open parking space or even an open parking garage. Students have to get to class using their GPS-enabled phones exactly when the “bell rings.” No wasted time is allowed.
Traditional: Every-man-for-himself parking was the norm. You got into the garage, you found a space, you parked.
Modern: Now different areas are often necessary for student, staff, and retail parking. As such, the garage’s overall design must reflect those requirements. Good luck trying to dissect a two-bay double helix into all of these differing uses.
Traditional: Parking facilities were run with a traditional swipe card reader and gates still operational from the 1950s.
Modern: Garages utilize state-of-the-art equipment, such as AVI for students and pay-on-foot systems for visitors. Quickly moving students in and out of the garage is vital. After all, the campus staff doesn’t want to hear from disgruntled students about being late to class because of a line at the parking control equipment.
The college garage facility has changed a lot since many of us went to school and as such, the design also has to change to keep up with the times. No more pulling old plans out of the drawer and expecting them to work. With all of the new programming now being added to garages, it’s imperative that an experienced parking consultant be used. Some of these programming requirements may be relatively easy to implement, but others will require a thorough understanding of their needs before the design can even begin.
Matt Feagins is a principal and senior parking consultant with WALTER P MOORE and can be reached at MFeagins@walterpmoore.com or 800.364.7300.