Finding parking can be a nightmare on college campuses.
Schools may offer lots for students, staff and faculty, but they aren’t always placed close to class or office buildings. It’s not uncommon for people to ignore parking regulations altogether out of convenience – to park closer — or frustration – they can’t park where they want, creating an enforcement nightmare on campus.
The struggle to park is well-known on New Jersey’s campuses. Rutgers University’s New Brunswick campus, made up of five sub-campuses split between several municipalities, make cars a convenience, if not a necessity. On the urban portions of its campus, Rutgers students have a street parking option (metered and not), but a complicated web of city resident and university parking guidelines makes it difficult to navigate. Not to mention, the university recently eliminated 50 metered parking spaces on the College Avenue campus, reducing desirable convenient parking to a precious few spots. Other lots become available to students with certain passes between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., but students are not always willing to wake up early to move their cars.
Rowan University is also experiencing problems with parking. Overcrowding became such a problem that students started parking illegally in the streets surrounding campus, resulting in a crackdown and an on-campus parking permit mess. This was a pretty significant spillover, considering that more than 60 percent of students live off-campus out of a student body of approximately 17,000. And those with permits have struggled, too, complaining to university officials about needing to arrive hours early just to get the spot they paid for.
However, with tight budgets, sporadic schedules, a lack of property and varying enrollment from semester to semester, it’s not realistic to expect universities to allocate funds for new parking garages or lots for students and staff who may never use them. How can universities offer the parking that faculty, students and staff need while working within existing confines?
Where Did All The Parking Go?
The rising cost of student housing means there are students who have no choice but to drive to class, many living too far away to walk or ride a bike. Most schools assign certain parking lots to commuters, and students in a rush don’t want to take the time to find parking, or they assume lots are full since the many people simply park as close to the parking garage entrance as possible. Plus, these parking lots can be far away from the rest of campus. (While Rutgers offers a bus system to shuttle, some students still drive between campuses to cut down on travel time, even if they aren’t supposed to.) All these factors contribute to a “domino effect” which impacts parking campus-wide.
For faculty, passes are often awarded based on seniority in an infamously-political process, with some universities going as far as to use parking as a “prize” for Nobel laureates or awarding spots based on donations to the university. UCLA alone has 175 different types of parking permits, mostly divvied up by status, and it doesn’t help that Los Angeles is one of the heaviest driving cities in the United States, so the likelihood of faculty taking public or alternate forms of transportation is low.
Such convoluted avenues to securing a parking space cultivates an assumption – or even an illusion – that there’s a parking shortage, but that’s not always the case. Since there’s no magic wand to undo campus culture, managers need to maximize existing space to ensure that every spot is being used properly campus-wide.
Using A Parking Guidance System To Alleviate The Problem
Parking management technologies identify where students and faculty may not think to look for parking. A combination of a level guidance system and a space guidance system can help reduce crowding near the entrance and can help reduce time spent searching for a spot. Space guidance systems can show commuters how many spaces are open and can even provide direct guidance by marking the open spot with a green LED light. This reduces time spent searching, decreases “bunched” parking at the entrance and simplifies the parking process for students in a rush.
Parking managers on campus can either influence driver behavior by issuing permits and tickets, or they can work with the parking itself to ease the burden and minimize the unintended consequences of illegal parking. Well-entrenched cultures of parking politics or students rushing to class won’t change just because parking needs to be maximized, so for universities, a solution could be as simple as showing people where to go.