Wednesday, August 19, 2009

 

Parking

I &*%#(%*& hate parking.

There is no obvious, elegant way to handle a sudden influx of students when parking is already tight.

The two iron laws of parking:

1. There is never enough.
2. Thou shalt not add parking, anywhere, ever.

Corrolary: Calling attention to the contradiction between 1 and 2 is bad form.

Adding parking involves several sins. It's environmentally suspect, since it acknowledges the private automobile and it (usually) replaces green space with pavement. It's incredibly expensive to build, since you have to address water runoff, lighting, grading, snow removal, yadda yadda yadda. And politically, there are few harder sells than spending great sums of money on parking lots or decks. Nobody wants to be remembered as the Parking President, and philanthropists aren't tripping over each other for parking lot naming rights.

In a perfect world, students would heed the call to use public transportation and/or carpools. We encourage that; we help them set up carpools, and they get free municipal bus passes with their student ID's. But students have complicated lives, off-campus jobs, and quotidian issues that often just don't fit the locations and times of local bus routes. (Depending on where they live, they may not be within reasonable striking distance of a bus in the first place. I'm not. If I schlepped myself to and from the nearest bus stop, I'd spend literally 5-6 hours per day commuting, not counting errands or off-campus meetings. Not gonna happen.) While I'm all for making our campus as public-transportation-friendly as we can, I'm under no illusions that this will solve the problem.

Online classes are similar. On paper, adding online classes should ease the parking problem, since you don't have to get to campus to go online. In reality, though, most of our online students also take onsite classes; they just use online classes to build friendlier (i.e. all "prime time") schedules. They probably help on the margins, but again, they're not anywhere near the scale of a real solution.

Offsite parking ('park and ride') is no picnic, either. It requires people to show up considerably earlier, and it requires expensive shuttle bus service. It's particularly unfriendly in inclement weather and at night. The time delay involved in 'park and ride' systems makes the added capacity least relevant precisely when it's most salient -- if I'm already late for class and can't find a space, how likely am I to drive five minutes away and wait another five minutes for the ten minute shuttle ride back to where I started?

Some community colleges are built basically as vertical compounds surrounded by moats of asphalt. In those cases, it's sometimes possible simply to expand the moats. (Although it's still expensive and sometimes surprisingly challenging even then. A single observation of the rare three-toed hornswaggler, and you're hosed.) Mine isn't built that way, so topography and local land use don't cut us much slack.

Worse, enrollment fluctuates, but a parking lot is forever. It's a commonplace of the hospitality industry that you don't build for peak. As expensive and politically difficult and environmentally ugly as they are, you don't want to build them just before your enrollment starts to decline.

(In high school, some friends of mine pranked the rest of us by sending us mock enrollment materials for Bessotte Sanitation University, whose motto was "plenty of free parking." Every year, that gets a little bit funnier.)

We've had some talk of congestion pricing -- require a paid permit for prime time, but allow free parking during off-peak periods (i.e. late afternoon). The problem there is that anything regressive enough to make a difference would crash into our 'accessibility' mission, and anything sufficiently painless as to be completely nondiscriminatory would also be ineffectual. There's also an issue of inflated expectations when students actually pay. Not being able to find a free space is annoying, but not being able to find a paid space feels like being ripped off.

In a few weeks, we're going to get an entering class of a magnitude we haven't seen before. I wish them well in their quest for parking spaces.

Wise and worldly readers -- has your commuter college found a reasonably elegant solution to the parking problem?

Comments:
I tell students it is not a "Parking Permit": its a "Hunting License."
 
We charge everyone a parking fee. I don't know what the students pay, but I suspect it's a flat fee for the first course -- Faculty have it taken from their paychecks every month... it's about 100.00/year.

Because everyone pays, we don't have parking permit enforcement -- which seems to be pretty expensive for the return.
 
At our annual meeting yesterday, we found out a few relevant data points:

1. Faculty will not be getting additional reserved parking (there are about 30 spaces at one end of our 1/4 mile main building, and none at any of the other buildings).
2. Reserved parking will not be enforced (so any student who parks there is safe).
3. Enrollment for this semester is 11,000 (I'm hoping that's statewide, but they didn't specify).

I'd settle for a single IT-reserved space so we don't have to haul computers halfway across the parking lot in the rain, but we can't even get that much.
 
My CC has a few campuses. The main, downtown city campus has a huge parking problem, but the satellite campuses have the "moat of parking" you described, and the school actually advertises those campuses with the "plenty of free parking" line, haha!
 
At our school, nobody pays, but after the first week or two they do ticket people who park in faculty/staff spaces without a permit. This year they are taking away the faculty/staff parking from two of our four parking lots. Faculty will instead park on the tennis courts, which got painted over for this purpose. The tennis courts are farther away, which stinks, but it's better than last year when we just showed up the first day to learn they'd done away with ALL faculty/staff parking....
 
Don't overlook that you can't afford to build for the first day demand. I'll bet you have plenty of parking by the middle of the semester.

The biggest flaw in our public transportation system is that it was designed by someone thinking of the convenience of the system and not that of the user. Unlike my old university's system, it does not connect housing and the area campuses. If you happen to be able to go from your apartment complex to campus, you have to go downtown to go home. The student complexes are compact enough to be as easy to serve as dorm complexes, but they don't even try to do it.

A parking ramp is only a partial solution. We have one and the top decks are basically empty. It takes too long to drive up there and then walk down or wait for the elevator, particularly if you are cutting it close getting to class, so they just park illegally. It can also take even longer to get out, because everyone leaves at the same time.
 
We've been having huge problems with this at our college. We have the highest number of students we've ever had, even residential, and we still only have spaces for 3/4 of them. We have roughly 150 faculty and staff, but we have about 110 parking spaces for them, half of which are nowhere near our classrooms or offices.

This semester is going to be a challenge, especially since safety and security has informed us that faculty don't get overflow parking privileges at all.

And on top of that, we've opened up a new Jazzman's cafe, and the school is relying on drawing in the public for its success, yet they have graciously awarded the business one (1!) single parking space for 5 minute grab-and-gos. I'm not sure whose genius idea that was, but...

I hate parking, too.
 
This is not about a CC, nor is it about a commuter campus. But it's about parking, and it is funny.

Indiana University-Bloomington (the "flagship" campus) collects more in parking fines annnually from its roughly 30,000 students than the city of Indianapolis (roughly 800,000 residents) does.

It IS a way to help keep tuition from rising quite as fast...
 
Where I am, faculty park in with the students. It's not rotten, but it takes a good while to walk in in the mornings, particularly when it's icy. I got a permit to one of the reserved lots that butt up against the building when I was pregnant (and there was ice, and I was taking on some classes mid-semester as a favor to the department when we unexpectedly lost a faculty member, so they really wanted me happy and healthy). The spawn arrived over the summer, but THEY CAN PRY THAT PERMIT FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS.
 
My university recently implemented two solutions.

1. They replaced a parking lot with a parking garage. No extra space needed. (And now it's an actual building, so you can slap a philanthropist's name on it!)

2. They built an underground parking garage. Again, no extra space needed, and the greenery above it remained. (It also has underground, rain-proof access into the nearest building.)
 
Our parking is self supported through fees and tickets. Ticketing happens within about 30 seconds of a violation. The entire parking and transportation staff and the construction of all new garages is paid for with these dollars, not state money. This is a common model in California at state universities and community colleges.
 
Ah, the benefit of an inner-city college: we don't have parking, and no one expects us to. If you're silly enough to drive a vehicle into lower Manhattan, you figure out how to park it.
 
My university actually has plenty of parking - sorry - but "free" not so much. Someone finally ran the numbers a few years ago and decided it was high time the academic fees stopped paying for parking lot and roadway maintenance, so there is no longer ANY free parking. Students pay a nominal amount for distant lots, faculty and staff pay hundreds per year for close-in lots, and visitors pay by the hour and through the nose.

The campus is in an urban area and, funny thing, when we eliminated free parking we found out we had been supplying parking for the employees of a number of businesses within a one-mile radius of campus.

Enforcement is key even when you have enough parking. In addition to barriers that require the proper electronic access to get into the lot, we have a full-time employee who does nothing but write parking tickets and apply "the boot" to repeat offenders.

If it is any consolation to you, having enough parking and being well-served by public transportation may solve the problems but does NOT prevent any of the parking arguments. They are just as heated and fierce here even though the loser still has a parking place.
 
Eli used to joke that he would get tenure before parking. He was accurate.
 
Bike kitchen!

Seriously, bikes as transportation. Talk to a local co-op. Yes, you can bike during the winter. Yes, you can bike 10 miles every day. You really can, I promise. So much cheaper. So much more reliable. Stop thinking of bikes as cheap kid's toys and look at the quality stuff.
 
But seriously.

At my school, all parking (lots, buildings) must be paid for by the parking fees generated by them. So if we build for peak enrollment, and then enrollment drops, parking fees must rise. (Which may push enrollment down even further.)

So we've been conservative with new parking.

But our existing parking--built and paid for when we had more students--is currently sufficient. Parking fees are not low, however.

For us, public transportation is a limited option. Even though our immediate neighborhood is fiarly urban (and dense), many of our students come from 20 - 30 miles away. Even locally, public transportation is a joke; it runs rarely and erratically and the routes (and interconnections of routes) are not well designed for our students. Pretty much, you drive or you don't come to class.
 
Way up north, we park on lawns, in handicapped slots, in no-parking roadways and loading zones, on sidewalks and snowbanks, and just wherever a vehicle might possibly fit. Our only limit is our imagination and our eternal credo is: only health-nut sissies would walk more than 50 feet to the door.
 
No, and it's a disaster
 
The campus is doing ongoing construction, so parking is difficult. Students can park across the street, but it's far from the classrooms and they must cross a busy highway. Faculty are somewhat better off; also, our parking permits are free. We can also park in paylots for free after the first 2 weeks of the semester.
 
Also, there will be a parking structure built eventually but that will take years.
 
My commuter campus closed a lot and is building a garage. That's good. The neighbors are complaining that students are parking around in the neighborhood (legally). Too (bleeping) bad! We have fewer spots than students and so long as the students aren't blocking driveways or fireplugs I think the neighbors can damn well put up with it for a year or two.
 
@Woodrowfan: Might want to step back on that viewpoint a little bit, unless your campus also does some good things for the neighborhood it's embedded in.

It is objectively extremely annoying to be unable to park within 4 blocks of your own home because there is a massive influx of non-locals. Especially when those non-locals are doing exactly nothing for your community, because they're there only to take classes, and the campus doesn't do any revenue-sharing with the town. From their perspective, you are an attractive nuisance. Not that you can do much about that except cut enrollment, of course, but "too (bleeping) bad" is kind of harsh.
 
Dictyranger: I understand what you're saying but I disagree. The students spend money in the area (there's a lack of the usual coffeeshop type places on campus), the local kids use the campus sporting fields, and the school does employee a lot of people from the area. The area has nice wide streets and every house has a driveway, so the students are not forcing the neighbors out of their own spots. Moreover, the campus has been here as long or longer than most of the surrounding houses, so most of the neighbors moved into their home knowing they were moving next door to a college.

Like all of us, I've been in a few college towns over the years, and this area doesn't fit that model. It's a rather conservative school. There are no frats, no beer sold on campus, and no nearby bars, so were not talking about the common drunken-student problems. Actually, it's the quietest campus I've ever seen. Oh, and parking isn't a problem at night so the school's lots are sufficient so the complaints are about daytime parking.

Basically the neighbors are objecting to a student's or professor's car parking on their streets while they are at work. No, I don't think that's reasonable....
 
Dean Dad, just to add to your concerns about parking, in some cases improper parking lot care can create a workers comp issue.

My mother is a librarian at a large state university. There was a freak ice storm in the spring and she fell on ice in the faculty parking lot on her way home at the end of the day. She broke her arm and had to have surgury to set the bones. The university health insurance system kicked the claims over to workers comp.
 
Thanks for posting on this topic as it reminds me to ask about this at an upcoming faculty meeting. There is plenty of parking for staff and students on the main part of my campus. However, my department just moved buildings and saw the minimal staff and student parking on the other side of campus. Looks like I will have to add time to my commute to ensure I get a spot. Not fun.

Our campus does not charge for parking and I would be pretty annoyed if faculty were charged since salaries are not too high.
 
Wow. Only me and PunditusMaximus mentioning the bike option? If your college has a "green" student org, why not engage them on this issue? I'm sure more folks would bike to my campus if there were nicer & more numerous bike racks, routes to campus were publicized, and the ability to take bikes on the bus demonstrated. Would make a nice project for Earth Day, eh? A green commute fair?
 
The problem really is the winters. Guys, there are bike companies based in Minnesota. They make bikes that they themselves ride in to work. It can be done.
 
Unfortunately, our campus is atop a hill, and you'd have to have thighs of steel to pump a bike all the way up the incline until you reach said campus.
Either that, or you take a very long way around and come to it from another direction.
 
Anonymous @ 4:48, bikes nowadays have gears-- I'm sure you've heard of mountain bikes. So cyclists can bike up hills.

Charge for parking. Provide convenient bike racks and bus stops on campus. Then let faculty and students decide whether they want to pay, or find some other way to get to school. Some will quickly discover that they're not made of sugar so they don't melt in the rain, and they can perfectly well bike to work and save the $300 parking fee. Or carpool. Some enterprising student might set up a jitney service.
 
Well, I walk a lot, so maybe I could push myself on that mountain bike up that hill to teach classes...I just wouldn't want to arrive to class wearing bike shorts and covered in sweat!
I am going to stick with my car.
 
I'm sure they had universities before every American owned a car.
 
Same problem here http://shrinkify.com/16ls
 
same problem is here http://shrinkify.com/16ls
 
Very nice information shared! interesting to read that post. Gatwick Parking
 
A safe parking is really appealing to everyone therefore we all need a safe parking spot. Nice share, Good work. gatwick meet & greet
 
informative one! there must be a paring fare for everyone. it can reduce the congestion. Cheap car parking Gatwick

 
Thanks for posting on this topic as it reminds me to ask about this at an upcoming faculty meeting. There is plenty of parking for staff and students on the main part of my campus. However, my department just moved buildings and saw the minimal staff and student parking on the other side of campus. meet and greet parking manchester

 
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