Some ways to improve parking on campus
Are you crazy?! YES! Of course, there is!
These were typical of the responses I would get when I asked, "Is there a parking problem on campus?"
Graphic Design 1 addressed the steps of the creative problem solving process. A major component of the process is 'Stating the Problem' and stating it correctly and clearly. In class, I would fill the board with what student's thought the problem was. We would then discuss each and reluctantly conclude that the complains weren't really valid. There is not a Parking Problem on campus - there is only a perception of a problem.
What students really want
To be able to park at the building of their first class, and, while in class, have someone move their car to the building of their last class.
Students had to admit that, instead of a parking problem, there was a Laziness Problem among students. This being America, they are conditioned to complain, whine, and claim to be victims of an unfair system.
In 1999, I chaired the Parking and Traffic Advisory Board at the University of Central Oklahoma. It included 12 other reps from administration, faculty, staff, and students. Based on our discussions, I prepared this information:
The UCO Parking and Traffic Advisory Board will assess and make recommendations that will impact and improve these areas within the university environment:
• Automobile access, navigation, and traffic flow.
• Parking, waiting, and loading/unloading.
• Pedestrian flow and user treatment.
• Bicycle, skateboard, and rollerblade accommodations.
• Mass transit, on and off campus.
• Communication: signage, brochures, and fliers.
Objectives/criteria for recommendations
• Encourage an easy intuitive navigation of streets, campus entries, parking lots, and sidewalks.
• Integrate the campus into the fabric of the city of Edmond and the downtown Edmond Master Plan.
• Respect the diversity of the UCO student: working, older than average, and part-time.
• Respect the university mission to prepare students to become responsible, self-sufficient, problem-solving citizens.
• Respect the intelligence of the user to make responsible decisions.
• Enhance the aesthetics of the campus: vistas, signage, and landscaping.
• Improve the perceived image of the University and its parking.
• Convey an attitude of UCO being service oriented; sensitive to the needs and requirements of the users.
• Be eco-conscious: consider pollution, materials, recycling, and waste.
• Create an environment that, within reason, feels safe and secure.
• Establish a sense of entry and identity for the university.
• Be sensitive to the needs of users with disabilities.
• Be considerate of financial limitations within the university and Parking Services.
Users/stakeholders for parking and traffic
1. First-time or infrequent visitors to campus
• Prospective students and those accompanying them.
• Incoming students.
• Newly hired faculty and staff.
• Infrequent attendees of events on campus.
• Visitors: family and friends of students, faculty, and staff.
• Alumni and retired employees.
2. Seasoned or regular user of campus facilities
• Returning students.
• Faculty, staff, and administration.
• Frequent attendees of events on campus.
• Emergency vehicles.
• Vendors, contractors, and those with business relations with the University.
A few ideas and recommendations
Open Main Street from University to Baumann.
Main was first turned into a one-way street for one block by the Science Building. Numerous students and visitors ignored or didn't see the signs and went the other way (a clear indication that they want or need to go that way.) Here's the problem: a one-way street that people violate by going the wrong way is more dangerous than a two-way street. This is dangerous - these drivers have no stop sign at pedestrian crosswalks and pedestrians may not think to look both ways at a one-way street. Making it two way will require all drivers to obey traffic signs and yield right-of-way to pedestrians. Visitors entering the campus at what appears to be its main entrance would logically expect to be able to turn left to access other campus buildings, but they cannot. With several stop signs along Main Street and the pedestrian crosswalks traffic won't be very fast-moving and there will not be heavy volumes of cross traffic.
Let's assume students are responsible enough to handle crossing a street. There will be a stop sign at each Ped Xing. The mission of the university is to help students become responsible thinking citizens and prepare them for work environments. Most of them will go to work at a place where they will have to cross a street safely. There is no need to assume the students are incompetent.
Restripe Main Street from the UC to Baumann to include turn lanes.
There is no need for 2 lanes in each direction as only one lane is available to turn onto Main. Adding the dedicated turn lanes will improve the traffic flow.
Restripe University Avenue from 2nd to north of Ayers to include turn lanes.
There are numerous side streets and parking lots - people turning left into those back up the left lane. There are also stop signs or stoplights at almost every cross street to slow down traffic and allow pedestrian crossing (this is one of the busy perimeters of the campus). There is no need for 2 lanes in each direction. One lane with dedicated left turn lanes would improve the traffic flow.
The Parking recommendations were made in the summer of 1999. In 2014, the city of Edmond restriped the street to add a bike lane in each direction. Below: The new striping after the addition of bike lanes in each direction and a center left turn lane.
So, a good move for drivers in the area. But, there are 2 areas that could be better.
Lesson: Things can always be made better.
1. In the intersection shown below left: there is no pedestrian crosswalk and the left turn lane is too far away from the intersection. Below right: Improved version.
2. The traffic to turn at Second Street can back up during the campus rush hours. There was an opportunity here to create more lanes to hold more cars. In the photo below, notice the wasted area in the yellow-striped islands. There is enough room to extend a lane (bottom photo).
Add stop signs at Ayers and Baumann to create a 4-way stop intersection.
This is a dangerous intersection with the water tower and hill westbound on Ayers obstructing some view from Baumann northbound. Traffic flow will be improved if those coming from Baumann to Ayers can have some right-of-way. Traffic flow on Ayers should not be impeded since there are existing stop signs a block in either direction.
Update: the stop signs were installed by the City of Edmond a few years after this recommendation.
Build a parking deck east of University Center.
The lots that stretch from the UC to Baumann are in terrain that will allow a deck over the releveled surface lots (the dark lot pictured below). Access to the covered lower deck will be from several entry/exits along Main Street, on the south side of the lot. Access to the upper deck will be along Hurd Street, on the north side of the lot. There will be no need to build ramps nor an elevator. There would be direct covered access to the lower level of the UC. There should be a higher charge or Permit Fee for the covered parking (protection from August heat, rain,and snow).
A multi-story garage will be more expensive and get clogged up during campus rush hours (9:00a, noon, 3:00p)
Move booth in pay lot to create an entry lane.
It now sits right off of Main Street. If a second car pulls up to enter the lot, it will stick out onto Main - and it gets worse if more cars try to line up from both directions. Moving the booth away from the street will allow cars to queue up with less interference to the traffic flow on Main Street.
Restripe Lot 8 and remove wheel stop barriers.
This is one of the most awkwardly striped lots on campus and it is one of the lots most used by the public for performances in the performing arts center. Currently there are parallel aisles running down the center separated by concrete wheel stops. Parallel aisles are redundant and a waste of space. The lot orientation should be changed from east-west to north-south. Studies show it is safer for pedestrians to walk along parked cars rather than between them.
The islands at the end of the rows have concrete barriers, presumably to keep students from parking in the island. Ticketing can take care of that issue.
Update: right after the recommendation was made, I escorted the VP Administration (who was over Parking Services) to this lot and pointed out all the scrapes across the tops of the wheel stops and told him each scrape represented a pissed off driver. Parking Services should be helping students, not angering them. He immediately ordered the removal of all the wheel stops in the islands.
Build an access connection from Lot 3 to Chowning.
This lot has poor access - all traffic must enter/exit from and to Chartrand which backs up during peak hours. Students exit onto Ayers and it's difficult to turn left onto Ayers which has the right-of-way. The new outlet would use the underused service drive to the Central Plant and direct traffic to the existing four way stop intersection. The exit lane is long to allow cars to queue up without interfering with cars in the lot.
Update: the university cut this access through about 10 years later.
Redesignate Disabled Parking and 24-hour Faculty lots to be more appropriate.
Conduct an assessment of use throughout the day to determine where the needs are greatest. Some offices have moved and new lots have opened since the signs were originally installed. There should be continual regular assessments of all parking usage to determine the most efficient allotment of spaces per permit designation. Example: There are about 6 Handicapped spaces at each of the 3 entrances to the LA Building. However, only the north side has easily accessible wheelchair access. Increase the handicap spaces there and decrease them at the other entrances.
Change from 5pm to 3pm, the time that non-24 hour Faculty/Staff lots become available to any permit holder.
This will make available more parking for students arriving early for evening classes or going to the library or the student union. Faculty and staff should be back in their offices from lunch by 3pm. Faculty leaving between 3 and 5 would open up parking spaces for students. This will convey a willingness to better accommodate student parkers.
Update: the permit time was changed from 5pm to 4pm a few years after this recommendation.
Produce a map and parking info brochure that is easier to understand.
These materials should be easy to read and understand. Very few students read the fine print - move that to the end and make it smaller. Highlight the important bits, use photos, and a map that focuses on parking and accessibility only. Consider adding kiosks and redesigning the posted signs for permit designations and wayfinding.
There's always a better way!
When school began in fall 2012, some signs were posted to guide students to lots on the north side (foto below left). They stated 'Overflow Parking'. But those words only serve to reinforce a negative parking image: "The lots are full, I had to park out there in overflow." "Yeah, I'm way out in the overflow lot."
We often believe that overflow lots are used only when regular lots fill up and often overflow parking is in fields, out away from our destination. This isn't true at Central, but that is what the signs convey.
Recommendation: Replace them with signs that say 'More Parking' (photoshopped foto in middle). 'More parking' is a positive statement - "Wow, there's even more parking." Signs around campus stating that there is more parking will create a better perception of parking at UCO.
Better: Design the signs to complement the graphics standards used on campus (photoshopped foto on right).
I wrote the VP Administration and the Director of Parking Services and got positive and enthusiastic responses. They agreed the proposed wording was more appropriate and accurate.
This recommendation was made in 2012. When I drove by the same area in 2013, I saw these signs: