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Campus parking lot designations will be simplified this fall. Commuter lots will need to be vacant from midnight to 5 a.m.
University addresses parking, transportation challenges
July 15, 2015Tweet
As campus enrollment increases and faculty and staff are hired to meet the needs of additional students, transportation and parking services must also adapt. The University is taking a systemic, long-term and transparent approach to addressing the impacts of growth on parking and transportation according to Vice President of Student Affairs Brian Rose, whose responsibilities include oversight of University Transportation and Parking Services.
“We’ve established some key foundations to our process of formulating a parking and transportation system that will serve us well into the future,” Rose said. The University will:
o make decisions based upon thorough data and expertise.
o think about parking, transit, walking and biking in an integrated way.
o engage stakeholders (students on and off campus, faculty, staff and the surrounding community) in our discussions about policy and infrastructure.
o improve communication and customer service.
To address the need for data and expertise, the University engaged a transportation consultant, Nelson/Nygard Consulting Associates, which completed a transportation and parking study in 2014. The report provided a wealth of data and analysis that is serving as a foundation for a number of initiatives to improve campus services and navigability.
The University has also made some structural changes to promote more coordination around the different ways people move to, from and around campus and to better engage members of the campus community in thinking about the best long-term strategies to support growth in a sustainable manner.
For one, Rose has brought Parking Services and Transportation Services into the same unit (Auxiliary Services). Along with that administrative change, Rose has created a new Parking and Transportation Stakeholders Group (PTSG) to replace what was formerly a separate advisory committee that looked only at parking.
“We started with the consultant’s report, but haven’t just accepted it,” Rose said. “We created a parking and transportation stakeholders group to make sure we have broad campus dialogue and input from all constituencies – graduate and undergraduate students, off-campus and resident students, faculty, staff, unions and subject-matter experts. This group has considered all of the consultant’s recommendations and has endorsed some early changes that will include more frequent on-campus shuttle bus services, a pilot program to simplify parking lot designations, more efficient routing of OCCT buses, pedestrian improvements on campus and additions to our bicycle infrastructure.“
Paul Parker chaired the campus Parking Advisory Committee (PAC) from the time it was established in the early 1990s, and thanked the members of PAC who served the campus well for over 20 years, but as University growth and construction became more aggressive, “the Parking Advisory Committee was very limited in how best to advise for this growth as it related to parking,” he said.
When the PAC was commissioned in 2013 to work with the external consultant, Parker said it became clear that there needed to be a link between parking and transportation. “As discussions with the consultant continued, the approaches to accommodate parking and transportation could not be separated and there was consensus in that area,” he said. “The spread of the University to downtown Binghamton, and soon to Johnson City, with off-campus residential complexes surfacing in many places in the Southern Tier, further ‘married’ parking and transportation issues.
“A parking and transportation stakeholders group improves well-informed decisions as the campus grows in all directions,” said Parker, who believes the new structure will result in a more effective and efficient process.
“We’re looking at the total campus environment in terms of how people get here and move around,” Rose said. “We know there are challenges ahead, but this group is looking at how we meet the future demand for parking and transportation in a way that is supportive of all modes of transportation, respectful of campus aesthetics and realistically acknowledges the limitations of our resources,” he said.
Director of Parking Services Sue Crane has been emphasizing better communication, simplicity and customer services in the changes she has introduced.
One of the major projects Parking Services has already put into place is the mobile app for metered parking, Crane said. Called Whoosh!, the free app was implemented in April and allows drivers to pull into metered spaces, go right to the app, enter the length of time they want to park and pay on the app. “If you end up needing more time, you can easily add more in the app without going back to your car,” Crane said.
Parking Services also installed new equipment to allow drivers to pay with a credit card in the garage and Visitors’ Paid Lot. “Most people today have credit or debit cards, and a cash-only payment process caused panic if the person exiting didn’t have cash,” Crane said. “This provides every avenue for parkers to exit, and we’re going to create a video to demonstrate to visitors how to enter and exit the garage to help smooth the exit process in particular.”
But Crane sees the biggest change for the campus coming this fall as the parking lot designations are simplified. “It will be pure and simple,” she said. “You will either park in an overnight lot (to be labeled R for resident) or a commuter lot. All commuters will be able to park in any surface lot on campus, and residents will park only in overnight lots.”
Commuter lots will need to be vacant from midnight to 5 a.m., Crane said, but there will be no changes during winter. “This will be so much simpler and the campus map will be easier to read,” Crane added. “The commuter lots will be labeled in Bearcat green, and the overnight lots in yellow.”
The only exceptions to the new designations will be the Visitors’ Paid Lot, the Library Tower Lot and Lot J1 at the Innovative Technologies Complex; these lots will be overnight lots except when snow is forecast and then they will need to be vacant from 5 to 7 a.m.
The new designations mean that Lot T, which used to be an overnight lot, will now be a commuter lot, and the five lots that were previously designated hang tag-only will also be commuter lots.
Crane also reminds drivers that Parking Services provides three courtesy cards to every student, faculty or staff member who has purchased a hang tag or decal to waive citations such as for an expired meter, expired inspection/registration or no campus decal.
Additional changes are on Crane’s wish list, including to the Visitors’ Paid Lot configuration, credit card in/credit card out payments and license plate recognition to eliminate hang tags and decals.
“We’re trying to provide the best options for people in a way that’s easy to understand with less frustration and at the same time look at the big picture,” Crane said. “Everyone tends to be very focused on their own needs, but we have to address all areas that need to have the service as well.”
Rose acknowledged there is still much work to be done, but is excited about the manner in which all the participants in the PTSG are embracing the challenge and working with one another.
“This will be an ongoing process of change and improvement, but we now have much better information, collaboration and community input than we’ve had before,” he said. “I am confident we have set the foundation to solve together the challenges that lie ahead.”