Go with the Flow: Campus Traffic and Parking Solutions: 20 Tips for Better Transportation Management

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ASK MOST CAMPUS CONSTITUENTS ABOUT DRIVING AND PARKING ON CAMPUS and they'll probably have a horror story to tell. People would drive around for hours and be in tears" because they couldn't find a parking spot, says Don Walter, parking department head at the University of Georgia, which has 388 buildings on its 615-acre main campus. A new system for distributing parking permits has led to a safer, happier, and healthier campus, he notes. UGA has dealt with the age-old challenge of managing traffic on campus through transportation demand management (TDM), and it is hardly alone in going down this road. According to the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida, transportation demand management involves reducing traffic congestion and pollution by influencing changes in travel behavior. It's not about building or widening roads or improving signal timing, but rather, increasing the passenger capacity of the transportation system by reducing the number of vehicles on the roadway during peak travel times. It's accomplished through a variety of strategies aimed at influencing mode choice, frequency of trips, trip length, and route traveled, and TDM programs address convenience, cost, and timing of alternative modes of travel.

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"The old-time pressures of parking and congestion are combining with the sustainability issue," says Philip L. Winters, director of the Center's TDM Program. Parking lots are not only expensive to build but take up valuable space that can be better used for classrooms or even green space. Solo drivers are also a big contributor to the campus carbon footprint. Safety is another issue because the more traffic you have the more accidents you might have, points out Sara Hendricks, the center's senior research associate.

However, improving traffic flow and parking on campus is very place dependent, Hendricks notes. Not every campus can tap into a strong local mass transit system. "It boils down to making sure you have options and not focusing on a single strategy," Winters advises.

Read on to learn 20 ways campuses across the country are managing campus traffic and encouraging alternative transportation options to become more pedestrian friendly, and greener.

Parking Practices

1. Prioritize parking permit distribution. In 2002, the University of Georgia instituted a formula to assign parking permits based on the requester's role on campus and longevity. A customized computer program determines the rankings. "It used to be called a 'hunting license,'" quips Walter. "We would give parking permits to anyone and you just had to find a spot." Now faculty might share a lot with senior staff, or even students, leading to better lot utilization.

2. Make meters mobile. Binghamton University (N.Y.) introduced portable parking meters, which hang from a car's rearview mirror, during the 2006-2007 academic year. Time is purchased in advance at a cost of 60 cents per hour with a $20 refundable deposit for the meter. The program is most popular with nontraditional students and local residents who use the running track. It expands meter parking on campus since users don't have to find an open metered space in order to park. Other users: the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the University of Massachusetts, Washington State University, and the University of California, Santa Cruz.

3. Raise the rates. Drivers will likely balk, but schools have found this to be an effective tactic. To discourage freshmen from bringing cars to campus, the University of New England (Maine) raised the annual parking permit fee from $90 to $300. Alternative transportation ideas were also offered.

Mass Transit Options

4. Subsidize local mass transit. CA Poly, San Luis Obispo pays a flat fee to the local transit provider that allows campus users to ride for free by just showing their ID card. …

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