Business (Managing Higher Ed)

Park It

College and University Transportation and Parking

PHOTO © SHANNON O’CONNOR

The single passanger car is so 2010. Schools and universities continue to disrupt the way students, visitors, faculty and staff get to, and around, campus. From “park once” initiatives to incentivizing mass transit to bike-share programs, schools are moving people around in a variety of ways.

“Transportation demand management involves a whole suite of activities that reduce congestion, improve air quality and uses the existing road network more effectively,” says Joshua Kavanagh, director of transportation services, University of Washington. He points to three different diversions that can help meet those goals: time, location and modal.

It’s About Time

Time diversion creates a nontraditional work schedule that alleviates the traditional rush hour/parking hunt crunch. Compressed work timetables or nontraditional hours shift a percentage of people off of the roads during the high drive times.

The idea also works for class schedules. Jack E. Molenaar, AICP/PP, director of transportation services, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, explains how staggered schedules help students get around the school’s five New Brunswick campuses. “It’s not uncommon for a student to finish a class on one campus and have to get to the next one on another campus three miles away. By staggering the start times we can ensure that there’s enough time to get there using the campus bus system.” Molenaar reports that tweaking the schedule this way increased ridership by 30 percent.

Point A to Point A.5

Location diversion works by getting people “away from the mother ship,” explains Kavanagh. He cautions that this is not telecommuting, although that could play in to the strategy. Instead, location diversion promotes hoteling and alternative drop-in centers that allow people to work remotely while still at a worksite. “If a professor lectures three days a week we suggest they align their office hours to those three days and then do research or grading from a closer campus,” he says.

The Drive to Drive Less

The last diversion is modal, where there is a definite hierarchy at play. The lowest modal is single-passenger cars; next is ride sharing and public transportation, and the highest modal is biking and walking. “We are trying to move people up the ranks,” says Kavanagh.

The national mood seems to be on his side. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the percentage of high school seniors who had a driver’s license fell from 85 percent in 1996 to 73 percent in 2010, as reported by USA Today in 2013. Still, students will bring cars to campus. “Some schools prohibit freshman parking, but it’s not as common as you think,” says John Dorsett, senior vice president, Walker Consulting Group.

To that end schools are enacting a “park once” policy. This encourages students, faculty and staff to park their cars on campus once and use other modals to get around campus or between campuses throughout the day. Not only does this reduce campus traffic, it also gives choice spots to people who really need them. “For schools with medical centers parking is part of the patient experience,” says Irena Goloschokin, executive vice president, Strategy, T2. For the rest of us, day-to-day parking should be at an “undesirable spot with easy access to other forms of mass transit,” she says.

Schools have taken the “park once” strategy to heart. Many have a variety of bike programs to encourage their populations to move up the modal ladder. “There are 10,000 bikes at the University of Madison, Wisconsin,” says Dorsett, “along with an infrastructure of bike paths though out the campus.”

Molenaar states that Rutgers has had a rental program for the last four years that allows students to rent out one of 150 available bikes. He reports that the program is successful, to a point. “Students rent these bikes for a month or a semester and have to store them, which is problematic.” While there are bike racks and lockers on campus, student housing, and even off-campus apartments, can be too cramped to store a bike.

Molenaar is in the process of applying for a Federal grant to start a bike sharing program. “This would get us 500 totally different kinds of bikes that would be rented by the hour. It would look like the typical bike sharing program that a city would run,” he says. Be warned, though; just providing a bike is not enough. Dedicated bike lanes are just as important. “Schools need a robust bike path program for this to work,” says Dorsett. “And they have to be dedicated. Bikes can’t share paths with lots of pedestrians.”

College and University Transportation and Parking

PHOTO © UW MARY LEVIN



College and University Transportation and Parking

PHOTO © SHANNON O’CONNOR

SADDLE UP. Both the University of Washington (UW, top) and the University of Colorado Boulder (CU, bottom) are bike-friendly campuses. At CU, the Bike Program is a one-stop shop for all things related to biking. Operated by Parking & Transportation Services and the Environmental Center, the Bike Program includes Bike Stations that offer mechanic assistance, two-day bike rentals that are free to faculty, staff and students and semester rentals. UW is home to more than 5,500 bicycle parking spaces distributed throughout campus. Bike parking can be found near every UW building and facility, and options include uncovered and covered racks, bike rooms in buildings, secure bike houses and bike lockers.

Kavanagh, up in bike-friendly Seattle, sees lots of two-wheeled commuters already, even during the rainy months. Still he’s trying to move more people up the modal hierarchy. “It will never be a one-size-fits-all solution,” he says. To that end, the University of Washington is working hard to get people out of their cars and onto the bus.

For instance, a basic single-occupancy parking permit comes with a free transit U pass. “The free membership entices commuters to try out public transportation and get comfortable with it,” he says. To further encourage drivers, daily permits cost the same as monthly, quarterly or annual passes. You could also join an occasional users program where a 30 percent discount is given if you drive two days a week.

Creating Motivation

If money isn’t motivating enough then how about a little friendly competition? Kavanagh has partnered with Luum, a Seattle-based, full-service transportation demand management platform that solves common parking and commute-related challenges, to create the Husky Commuter Club. This partnership uses parking management and social competition to provide rapid feedback to members who can compare scores against themselves and their neighbors. “The shine is off the term ‘gamification,’ but this lets us feed into people’s natural motivators, have fun and change behaviors,” says Kavanagh.

But what if a potential commuter is just unsure how to approach mass transit? Kavanagh has that covered with a commuter concierge. This volunteer team is trained in the public options to get commuters where they need to go. It is totally hands-on and high-touch. Kavanagh explains. “They will ask them questions about goals, like trying to lose weight, or constraints, like needing to get to day care at the end of the day, and come up with and individual plan.”

Research indicates that it’s easiest to make a modal change when there are other factors in play. To that end the concierge system is alerted when someone on campus changes addresses or there is a new hire. With 800 plans completed in the first six months, Kavanagh calls the plan “wildly successful. It’s been really neat for everyone.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of College Planning & Management.

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