By: Bob Browand
During the spring semester, my team and I hosted our first-ever parking forum where we provided the campus community with an overview of everything from our department’s current service offerings and funding structure to a first glimpse at plans for how we intend to adjust and change our program over the next ten years to ensure we are doing what’s best for our ever-evolving University customers.
Realizing that the campus is continually changing and enrollment shows no signs of slowing anytime soon, our ten-year plan explores several possible solutions within four scenarios to cope with the projected increased need for more University parking and transportation options and programs.
We have chosen to go forward with Scenario 3, highlighted within the yellow box, which includes everything from adjusting permit rates to creating and implementing an attractive, feasible alternative transportation program to help decrease the demand for parking on campus.
Other features of the proposal outlined plans to construct more garages, as well as designating residential-only parking areas.
Portions of the plan, which covers fiscal years 2017 through 2026, are already in action, so we thought now would be a good time to revisit and dissect its biggest takeaways.
Transportation Demand Management Incentives AKA COAST
One key component of our plan was the need to create and implement some sort of incentive for people to begin utilizing alternative transportation instead of driving to campus, so we racked our brains and developed COAST, which stands for Coogs on Alternative and Sustainable Transportation.
Launched at the end of the spring semester, COAST offers perks and benefits to students, faculty and staff who pledge to ride METRO, utilize Zipcar or carpool to campus, instead of purchasing a permit and commuting alone.
Designed to decrease the NEED for additional parking spaces and garages on campus, this program has already done just that. In just four short months, we have successfully recruited more than 1,263 members who would otherwise tie up as many parking spaces as you can fit in parking lot 16B, a popular parking destination in the University’s Arts District that has room for 790 vehicles.
A previous blog post explored the unexpected success of the program, and what it means for mitigating the growing congestion on campus.
Our original goal, outlined in the yellow box on this slide from our original ten-year plan presentation, should help put into perspective why we’ve been so pleasantly surprised by the community’s response to COAST.
At the time of the forum, we were aiming to recruit 3,000 members over FOUR YEARS. We’ve already reached nearly half of that goal in FOUR MONTHS, so we’re more than on track.
This is definitely a step in the right direction for us and the campus community as a whole.
Permit capping and oversell control
Another piece of our plan that is already in action, is the act of capping all permit sales, in an effort to better control permit oversell. Discussed in depth in a previous blog post available at oversell, oversell is the act of selling more parking permits than there are spaces on campus.
While a little bit of oversell is completely necessary and unavoidable on a campus this size, taking the extra step to cap permit sales increases the likelihood a parker will find a space within their chosen lot type, within a reasonable amount of time.
Feedback we’d received in the past, indicated that one of the biggest complaints UH parkers had was that they had a permit but couldn’t use it for the appropriate lots on campus, so we set out to change that.
Our original goal, highlighted within the yellow box on the slide below, shows our initial plans for controlled oversell by student permit type.
Once the fall semester started; however, the numbers for the ERP/Economy and Student Surface lot parking permits were slightly adjusted to the ratios listed below, as we had to account for the number of residents parking in those lots 24/7.
- 1.8 - Economy (oversell for this lot as of this post is 1.77)
- 1.62 - Student (oversell for this lot as of this post is 1.6)
- 1.6 - Garage (oversell for this lot as of this post is 1.57)
- 1.0 – Residential Housing Exclusive-the Calhoun Lofts lot ( oversell for this lot as of this post is 0.94)
Although the adjustments meant fewer permits would be sold in the long run, they were necessary to ensure commuters coming to campus could find spaces in a timely manner; however, this brings us to another aspect of our ten-year plan, which is the creation of a residential parking areas.
Residential Parking on Campus
Currently, if you live on campus in any residence hall other than Calhoun Lofts, you are required to purchase either a garage, student or economy parking permit if you choose to bring your car to campus.
So far during the Fall 2016 semester, there have been approximately 600 residential cars parked in Student lots and roughly 1,000 residential vehicles in Economy spaces.
While we want our residents to have an option available to them should they want or need to bring their vehicle to campus, our current model skews our oversell calculations and in turn displaces individuals commuting to and from campus each day.
To correct this, we have proposed designating a parking area on campus that would be exclusively for residents. We would be able to sell these permits knowing that that spaces will be offline for the majority of the semester. Plans for implementing this model are underway, but a firm timeline has not yet been established.
Based on current projections and other campus projects and commitments, it’s realistic to say this will not come to fruition until the Fall of 2018 or 2019, but updates will come as they are available.
The implementation of a resident-only parking area is largely contingent on the construction and opening of the University’s fifth garage.
While we hope to eventually diminish much of the need for additional parking facilities as they greatly increase our debt service, garages are our best solution, given the limited landscape of the University.
Our current plan proposes building three more garages over the next ten years; however, construction of the first of those three, Garage 5, has not yet been approved by the UH Board of Regents. Currently, the group is set to vote on it during their December meeting. Once a firm plan is in place, we will share that information with faculty, staff and students.
As you can probably tell, our ten-year plan involves a lot of moving parts. These four elements are just smaller pieces of a much bigger puzzle. We will continue to update the campus community on our progress and any adjustments we must make to our original plans along the way. To stay in the know, I recommend you continually check out this blog, as well as our main departmental website.For your reference, a full-length video explanation of the ORIGINAL ten-year plan is available online. Please keep in mind that some aspects of it, many detailed above, have changed over time.
published: Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016