During the last couple of decades, managing traffic and parking congestion on campuses has become an increasing challenge for universities. Society’s dependence on cars is heavily reflected on university campuses. Vehicles not only have been the focus of transportation systems, but also have strongly influenced the university planning process.
Especially when situated in metropolitan areas, universities have struggled to provide access and mobility without destroying campus qualities as distinct communities that offer tranquil, park-like settings to foster learning.
More recently, a combination of factors — such as declining air quality, increased traffic congestion, institutional financial challenges, lack of land for parking, and the high cost of constructing and maintaining parking garages — have led many universities to implement transportation and parking management systems that include alternative ways of commuting.
Offering a solution for many of these issues, the newest university transportation systems have included market prices for demand parking, expanded transit access, park-and-ride lots, bike share programs, bus shuttles, and walking and carpooling programs.
The primary question many campuses currently face is: How has our university encouraged a shift from cars to other modes of transportation, especially to bicycling and walking, to promote a more sustainable campus?
“As the second largest employer in the city of Toledo, The University of Toledo has an obligation to ensure its transportation and parking system promotes long-term sustainability, while also balancing the needs of our students, faculty, staff and visitors,” said Larry Kelley, executive vice president for finance and administration.
As such, UT officials continue looking at ways to alleviate congestion in high-demand lots on its Main and Health Science campuses, as well as to ensure more equitable rates among its drivers. To meet these goals, the University announced in 2016 that it will implement a new parking management system in fall semester 2017, as some other universities already have done with effective results.
One such institution is Texas Tech University.
“We launched a parking demand management program in 2007, and it has certainly helped Texas Tech University manage parking demand and provide our customers with a wider set of options,” said Eric S. Crouch, TTU managing director for transportation and parking services.
“We worked closely with our stakeholders to develop the system. While there were some concerns early on, drivers appreciated being able to balance price and convenience based on their individual needs.
“We’ve also seen an increase in the number of people riding bikes and buses, which has helped Texas Tech reduce its environmental footprint,” Crouch added. “Currently, 54 percent of our student body travels to campus by means other than a single-occupancy vehicle.
“So, implementing the new parking system has been very successful in improving Texas Tech University’s financial and environmental sustainability, while also balancing customer needs with available resources.”
The new UT parking system will promote alternative methods of commuting, as well as make parking fees more equitable among students, faculty and staff.
“We’re looking at offering additional options for UT commuters, as well as strategies aimed at influencing commuter transportation modes and frequency of trips,” Kelley said.
When asked to provide their input, nearly 5,000 University of Toledo faculty, staff and students responded to a transportation survey in December. Their feedback is being used to develop improved options for commuters. Specific information about the new UT parking management system will be released as details are finalized.