The average parking space on campus is 8 1/2 feet wide and 19 feet long. That’s roughly 160 square feet. Every morning and afternoon, droves of cars and trucks search for these small parcels of asphalt surrounding the university. Depending on the time of day, this can be a relatively simple task, or difficult one. Add in factors like weather, pedestrian traffic and the off-chance a special event (i.e. job fair) is taking place on campus, and you can quickly see why parking management is important for the successful operation of any college or university.
UAA’s Parking Services recently started working with a parking consultant firm to evaluate various aspects of its program. Come March, the SP+ Corporation will provide the university with a comprehensive assessment of everything from its customer service to parking assignment, organizational structure and resources to use of technology. In addition, SP+ will submit a summary of student and faculty mindsets towards campus parking and transportation using data collected in-person and on an online survey.
“With the focus on the reduced budgets and the tightening up of the purse strings, I felt now was an important time to show that the program that we are using is still valuable for students,” Director of UAA Parking Services Glenna Muncy said.
This is the first time in Muncy’s nearly six years as the director that a thorough assessment of the program is being held.
Casey Jones, the Vice President of the University Services division of SP+, has made three trips to Anchorage this year to meet with university officials and hear students thoughts on parking. Jones’ has spent over twenty years as a parking professional in the Pacific Northwest. In the two years Jones has been with SP+, the parking pro has reviewed the parking systems of major universities like Washington State, UNLV, and University of Oregon. Jones’ understanding of the unique transportation needs of institutions of higher-education allows him to identify trends across numerous universities — making use of data UAA would not be able to obtain on its own.
Armed with over 20,000 employees in the U.S. and Canada, SP+ offers a wide-range of parking operations and services. It includes nine operating groups that deal exclusively with a specific market, including universities.
“We’ve spent a lot of time at other campuses and universities and that factors in some because we’ve seen and implemented best practices in other places,” Jones said. “But this is a special and unique university so we really have to honor what’s special about UAA.”
Jones says innovation, not added investment, is what he strives to arrive at for every university that calls on his services.
“It’s not necessarily selling more permits or parking more cars on campus,” Jones said, adding that building parking is “expressly expensive” wherever you go. Instead, the parking guru states his mission as making “the most efficient use of the system that is available right now to UAA.”
Students like Ronnie Adams, a Technology major and platinum permit holder, thinks there is room for improvement in the system.
“They could save some students some money if they encouraged them to think about where their classes are,” Adams said. Adams assumed that if he bought the most expensive permit ($180/semester), it would guarantee optimal parking all over campus, not just in the central parking garage.
Muncy encourages students to think critically about what improvements to parking services they want to see and share those with them.
“Some students I think would offer to pay just a little more if they could get “x”, so I’m looking for what is that “x” factor?” Muncy said. “It doesn’t help to tell me what’s broken if you can’t tell me how to fix it.”
Students can visit uaa.alaska.edu/parking to take a short survey about their parking and transportation experience at UAA that will be included in the campus engagement report. The survey will remain open for two more weeks.