Magazine

Parking’s New Partner – ‘Transportation Demand Management’

By Brian Shaw

No doubt many of you in the parking industry are asked to help clients or institutions solve challenges that are not directly related to parking operations. And being the helpful folks that we in parking tend to be, we happily try to oblige.
But have you found that you are not quite sure how best to address these challenges? Do you know where to turn for help? Have any of you had to handle these types of situations in the past few years? Or can you anticipate having to deal with similar circumstance in the near future?
Read on and know that help is out there.
• Your client is running out of parking or is projected to do so in the near future. They can’t afford nor do they wish to build more, but the local government requires a minimum amount of parking – what do you do?
• Your client wants to construct a building on one of your parking lots, or your parking garage needs to be shut down in whole or part for maintenance or repair – what do you do?
• Some of your customers no longer need to park every day of the week as they travel, work at home or now work part time, sharing their job – do you offer any helpful pricing for them?
• Some of your customers carpool to work to save money and/or take advantage of nearby high occupancy vehicle lanes and have asked for help to make this easier for them – what do you do?
• Some of your customers have formed a vanpool and want help to reduce their monthly vanpool fare – can you help them?
• You recently had to raise your parking rates due to an increase in the municipal parking tax; you’re seeing no new revenue. Some of your customers can’t afford the higher rates and are looking for help – what do you do?
• Some of your lots are at capacity, while others have plenty of room. There’s pressure to expand parking where it’s desired, but you know there’s plenty of room nearby – what do you do?
• Your client needs to operate a shuttle service to the nearest transit center or to link nearby sites to reduce driving between them. You’ve never operated a bus before – what do you do?
Do you know how to handle these situations? Do you feel helpless or out of your depth in trying to deal with them?
As a former university parking and transportation administrator, I know that for those of us plying our trade in campus settings, as well as some of us who contractually operate parking, we have had to expand our repertoire to include shuttle/bus service, car-sharing, biking facilities, ridesharing and other initiatives to move more people in fewer vehicles.
The cost to build more parking in terms of actual construction, real estate loss, operations and maintenance, security and safety, and debt capacity is increasingly difficult and getting out of reach. This is in addition to the limitations on and underperformance of revenue recovery due to how the current economic climate has hindered consumer spending power. Add to that municipalities’ increasing parking taxes to offset their lost sales tax and other sources, and your revenue has likely remained flat or even declined.
Therefore, many of us have to consider other options to meet the transportation challenges faced by our institutions and clients. Knowing the options available to you will make you able to face the challenges head on with confidence and certainty of success.
For many years, the parking industry tended to be inward looking. We have focused on how to improve efficiency, the customer experience, revenue generation and collection, and embrace technological advancements.
As you can see from the previous situations, a growing number of us have begun to realize that a changing aspect of our work in administering parking facilities involves broader aspects of transportation. Some of us have had to look at how to encourage increasing vehicle occupancy to put more people in the same number of cars and parking spaces, which would seemingly be counterproductive and counterintuitive to generating revenue.
Instead of just managing a parking facility, we now have to manage the demand for parking.
Fortunately, there is help for those finding themselves having to sail into the uncharted territory of managing parking demand. The Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) is looking to help the parking industry become fully versed in its field of expertise: “transportation demand management” or TDM.
TDM is the label for programs, policies and services that help the traveling public make use of alternatives to driving alone. The association is the only organization in the nation dedicated to help its more than 700 members learn the latest TDM techniques, federal tax policies and improvements in technology that will foster travel choice.
The ACT has seen a growing interest by those involved in campus parking operations to learn about TDM. It has responded by developing a partnership with the International Parking Institute (IPI) and by having our mutual members speak at each other’s national and regional events taking place throughout the year. For example, I will be speaking at this year’s IPI conference on creating transportation choice at universities and medical centers and at the New England Parking Council’s annual conference in April.
The ACT’s annual conference, which will take place this summer in Palm Springs, CA, will be a great opportunity for those of you new to transportation demand management to learn all about it. The association offers a one-of-a-kind professional development series that will provide in-depth training for those new to TDM, as well as more advanced classes for seasoned veterans.
The conference itself will allow attendees to learn from one another, to share their ideas and challenges, as well as to see the latest in rideshare programs. The ACT conference is easily the largest concentration of TDM expertise and talent in one place each year. Visit the ACT website (www.actweb.org) to learn more about the ACT and this year’s conference.
During my career as a university parking and transportation administrator, I faced and helped to address all of the situations described at the beginning of this article. A number of the solutions that I implemented I learned from my involvement in the ACT.
The association and I are in the position to assist any institution or parking company finding itself asked to solve these and similar situations. There is help out there and a partner willing to lend you a hand.
As President of the ACT, I extend an invitation to Parking Today readers to contact me to discuss how the Association for Commuter Transportation can be of service to you.
Brian Shaw, a Senior Planner with Sam Schwartz Engineering, currently serves as President of the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT). He also sits on the Editorial Board for TDM Review and on the faculty for Academic Impressions. Contact him at bshaw@samschwartz.com.

Article Abstract from March, 2010




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