Facilities (Campus Spaces)

Smart Parking

Parking Program

PHOTOS COURTESY OF COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY

Sustainability is priority for many colleges and universities, but at Colorado State University (CSU) it’s woven into the school’s DNA. The “greening” of CSU has been happening since the campus’ first farm opened in 1888. Since then, generation after generation of CSU administrators, staff and students have dedicated themselves to sustainability through classroom programming, research projects, research laboratories and off-campus initiatives. The university’s dedication to being a green leader led BestColleges.com to name CSU America’s Greenest University for 2015, and it recently became the first school in the world to receive the Platinum Rating by the AASHE STARS program (stars.aashe.org).

The Role of Alternative Transportation

One of the keystones of CSU greener campus program is its commitment to alternative transportation. Nearly half of the school’s faculty, staff and students use alternative forms of transportation to get to the Fort Collins-based campus each day, including carpooling, biking, walking or taking the bus. Of course, Colorado is well known as a wonderland for outdoor enthusiasts. Given that reputation, it’s no surprise that bicycles are a popular form of transportation on campus. CSU offers numerous paths and resources for bicycle commuters, including a new bike fix-it station, offering repairs to bicyclists.

CSU also offers carpooling through its Ridesharing program, which connects riders online with other students and/or staff for rides to campus, ski trips, and recurring trips and entertainment rides, such as concerts and sporting events. Not everyone’s schedule permits ride-sharing, though, so the campus has also partnered with Zipcar, Inc., to offer a car-sharing program on-campus. For students with a temporary need for a vehicle, the Zipcar program is available 24/7.

As is the case with most urban universities, bus service plays an important role in the overall campus transportation program. CSU partners with the City of Fort Collins to provide bus service between the city and the university campus.

parking guidance system

ILLUSTRATION COURTESY OF COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY

RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT. Colorado State University in Fort Collins recently installed a parking guidance system that uses lighted sensors to guide parkers to available spaces within the garage. Green lights indicate a space is available, red lights indicate a space is occupied. Also provided are blue lights for handicapped parking and purple for charging stations for electric vehicles. A web-based operating system and mobile apps can also be included with the system, providing real-time data. The web-based component can be programmed to adjust lighting and exhaust fans within a structure, reducing operating costs.

A New Approach: Greener Parking

But what sets CSU apart is the university’s unique approach to promoting sustainability through its parking program. Sustainable parking is nothing new. For more than a decade parking designers have been working sustainable elements like solar panels, green roofs and walls and centrally located light cores into their designs. CSU recently broke new ground, however, by installing a cutting edge parking technology — a sensor-based parking guidance system — in the university’s LEED-certified garage as their latest green parking initiative. Single-spaced sensors are the hottest new technology in a parking industry that’s currently being transformed by technological advancement.

CSU’s new parking guidance system features the installation of parking sensors in each of the 645 covered spaces and monitors all 870 spaces in the university’s only parking structure. A space indicator light is installed on a dropper at the front of the parking space, offering drivers a clear view of where open spaces can be found and what type of parking is permitted in an individual space. Different colors indicate each space’s status and user group: green for available, red for occupied, blue for handicapped parking and purple for electric vehicle charging stations. The lights are clearly visible to drivers when they enter each level so they can quickly determine if a space is available on that floor. A monument-style sign is installed at each of the garage entries to advise customers where parking is available as they approach the garage. Because the sensors constantly update the system, the information is provided to drivers in real time and is always current.

Parking guidance sensors were developed as a customer-service amenity and management tool, but CSU’s parking planners recognized their promise for promoting sustainability as well.

“By guiding parkers directly to open spaces, the parking guidance system minimizes the amount of time spent searching for parking,” says Doug Mayhew, Colorado State University’s associate director of Parking and Transportation. “As a result, it decreases the amount of vehicle exhaust emitted in the structure and reduces the amount of unnecessary fuel wastage.

“By reducing exhaust we are also protecting the health of our students, faculty and staff,” adds Mayhew.

It may be tempting to view the sensor program as more of a symbolic effort, but Mayhew says it’s anything but that. “Since we installed the sensors last fall, the response from our students and staff has been overwhelmingly positive.”

CSU chose INDECT’s ultrasonic sensors. “There’s no point in installing sensors in our parking facility if we aren’t sure that they are going to be accurate and reliable,” said Mayhew. “We did extensive research studying all of the options available to us.”

According to Dale Fowler, director of INDECT USA, in addition to promoting sustainability, the CSU sensor program will also provide additional benefits.

“CSU’s parking program demonstrates the versatility of single-space sensors,” says Fowler. “Sensors are well known throughout the parking industry for the parker convenience and management benefits they provide, but the sustainability advantages are just as important.”

Sustainable Parking Program

PHOTOS COURTESY OF COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY

According to Fowler, the parker convenience benefits are obvious. By guiding drivers directly to open spaces, the system eliminates the frustration of having to drive throughout the garage looking for an open space and can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to find parking. The system also provides a safer parking environment because the risk of accidents or collisions with pedestrians is significantly reduced when parkers spend less time driving throughout the garage. In addition to enhancing safety, this also reduces the university’s liability.

Finally, by reducing wear and tear on the parking structure, the sensors can save the university thousands of dollars in maintenance and repair costs and extend the useful life of the garage.

“The sensor program also allows university planners to make more informed policy and planning decisions,” says Fowler. “The sensors collect data about length of stay, occupancy and usage for each of the different user groups at the garage. University planners will be able to use that data to enhance its parking policies and procedures.”

CSU’s Mayhew appreciates the versatility of the sensors.

“Our principal objective in initiating this program was twofold, to promote sustainability and to make campus parking more convenient and manageable,” says Mayhew. “We are also pleased that the [parking sensor] system has accomplished both objectives.”

The program has been so successful that as the university expands its parking resources, the sensors will continue to play an important role. CSU is currently developing a second garage that is slated to open this August, and that facility will also be equipped with ultrasonic sensors.

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of College Planning & Management.

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Has interest in sustainability initiatives—from alternative energy and water conservation to “green” landscaping, recycling, fossil-fuel divestment, local sourcing, and more—waned on your campus?


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