Kennesaw State Reacts to Growth
Parking Keeping Pace With Campus Changes
"We had to market a (parking) program to both students, faculty and staff. It was costing $15,000 a space, and someone had to pay for it. Parking had been virtually free.”
Beth Tindel, Director of Parking Operations at Kennesaw State University (KSU) in Georgia, has her job cut out for her. A student population growth that outstripped supply and limited public transportation left her and Faye Silverman, Executive Director of the KSU’s Auxiliary Services and Programs (ASaP), scrambling.
Kennesaw State is the third-largest in the University System of Georgia and one of its fastest-growing. Enrollment has grown considerably since transitioning from a strictly commuter campus just a few years ago to a full-service residential university today. KSU expects to be close to 23,396 enrollments this fall, up from 15,654 in the fall of 2002.
Parking Operations at KSU is a unit within the ASaP enterprise. Management of all parking operations was under the control of a combination of the Department of Public Safety, Facilities, and Plant Operations until 2007, when ASaP assumed responsibility for the management of KSU’s four parking decks and 27 surface lots. The decks alone offer 6,362 spaces. When combined with the surface lots, more than 10,000 parking spaces are available on the KSU campus.
A major challenge now, says Silverman, is commuter students. “How do we address carpooling and shuttle operations, and at the same time negotiate with private parking lots in the area to provide needed space? The incredible rapid growth and the change in the ‘type’ of student means we are virtually always in planning mode.”
The process has been slow but steady, she says. “In the past four years, surface lots turned into buildings and enrollment skyrocketed. This is a good thing: (KSU) moved from being a ‘transfer school,’ where students came before going to the University of Georgia or other larger schools, to a destination university with high-qualification requirements, several advanced degree and PhD programs, and a diversity of choice.
“But all this has had a tremendous impact on the campus infrastructure,” Silverman says.
Due to the university’s growth rate, additional parking spaces are needed along with a potential shuttle solution. Given these circumstances, having the most efficient and effective systems and processes in place for all elements of parking operations is imperative.
KSU’s Parking Operations has made significant changes, upgrades and process improvements in the three years it has been managing all parking-related elements.
Before ASaP assumed ownership of Parking Operations, all ticketing and parking management reported through the Department of Public Safety. Any emergency or life-safety calls took precedence over citation issuance, as well as parking lot and deck management.
Implementing a parking management team allowed all resources to be dedicated to the sole priority of managing parking.
Citation issuance, for example, became a way to control and eliminate repeat violators, not to supplement revenue. With the consistent ticketing program in place, the need for enforcement lessened as students, faculty and staff came to understand that citation issuance was and continued to be consistent.
“Our goal is not to give as many citations as we can, but to ensure that people park where they are supposed to,” Tindel says, “but enforcement is important.”
Through to 2009, all citations issued were hand-written paper tickets manually entered and tracked in the old ARMS system inherited from the Department of Public Safety. Fine collections were overseen by parking personnel, who worked with the Bursar’s Office.
In 2009, an electronic citation system contract was awarded (to T2 Systems), allowing Parking Operations to be removed from the collections business.
All citations issued are paid from student accounts collected by the Bursar’s Office. Manual entering of information into a database has been eliminated, greatly reducing human error.
One hundred percent of collections are now received for all tickets issued, with significant reductions in late fees and scofflaws; repeat offenders are tracked. Enforcement labor and operating expenses have been reduced.
“We did not have a true parking fee, simply a security fee all students paid,” Tindel says. “Now students pay a standard $60 ‘infrastructure fee,’ plus a $50 parking fee if they need on-campus parking, per semester.”
Change can be painful, adds Silverman. ASaP formed committees made up of students, staff, faculty and administrators, and all stakeholders’ interests were taken into consideration. “We shared information and gained converts.”
To gain better control of unauthorized use of university parking facilities and to increase safety and security, card-controlled gating went live in 2009, using radio frequency identification (RFID) hangtags, and eliminated almost all static decals on campus. Currently, three of the four parking decks are gated, with the fourth deck set to be gated by this fall semester.
The KSU campus and its facilities are often used by outside groups for various events, whether strictly to provide parking for nearby events (such as air shows) or to use its facilities to host special events (such as competitions). In the past, the university did not charge groups for using its parking facilities. This was identified as an untapped source of revenue, as well as an opportunity to raise funds to offset the additional labor and upkeep expenses incurred by incremental, non-university-business use.
Outside groups are now offered a choice between paying parking-staff labor rates to manage parking for an event, or charging attendees $5 per vehicle to park. Most groups choose to pass this cost to attendees. This allows for a more efficient traffic flow and covers the costs associated with large events, including additional electric costs and cleaning labor for the facilities.
Kennesaw State has its parking work cut out for it but has a team in place to make it happen, KSU officials believe. Silverman, Tindel and their staff say they see a bright future for this growing and changing university.
John Van Horn is editor of Parking Today. He can be reached at email@example.com.