Originally published in Parking Today magazine.
You timed your schedule perfectly. You decided to forego your Starbucks coffee so you’d definitely be there in time for your lecture. You carefully checked waze for your scheduled time of departure. And you calmly arrive on campus with time to spare, inwardly reviewing the fine points of your opening class.
And then you pull into the parking lot.
No spots in sight.
You circle again, then again, beginning to feel your heart beating faster. Time keeps moving and your lecture time is approaching. Finally, you notice an open space. But a fast-moving student beats you to it. 15 minutes later, when you finally find a spot, you’re feeling scattered and overwhelmed. Your class starts in 30 seconds and there’s no way you’ll be in the classroom on time.
Why College and Medical Campus Parking is So Challenging
Parking in a busy environment is never easy. But some parking scenarios are particularly challenging. University and hospital campuses, with constant classes and appointments around the clock, have an unusually high rate of of ingress and egress throughout the day. With multiple lots and/or garages scattered throughout campus, there are likely enough spots for everyone to park in. But can people find them?
At Illinois State University (ISU), there are 3 campus garages as well as more than 30 surface lots. But administration was receiving myriad complaints from both students and faculty of insufficient parking. Some were choosing to complain on social media about the lack of parking on their campus. Yet university data showed that their parking resources were actually underused!
Baylor University, a private university in Waco, TX experienced a similar phenomenon. They have 5 student garages with 11,000 parking spaces- more than enough for their student body. Despite the plethora of parking, however, they kept receiving student complaints about wasted time searching for spots instead of attending classes.
Hospital environments often face similar challenges. At Seattle Children’s Hospital, for example, there are multiple entrances, a variety of parking lots, and several parking garages. All of the parking resources tend to be crowded each day and all are open 24/7 and subject to frequent turnover. When a patient, doctor, or nurse is arriving for an appointment or working shift, it can be overwhelming to know where to look for a spot and which areas to avoid.
The stress of a visit to a hospital, particularly a children’s facility, is enough to make any parent blanch. But couple that with complex parking structures and the feeling that every spot is taken, and the stress can be overwhelming. At Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio, a complex 4 story parking garage, with limited available parking, presented quite a hurdle for parents looking to park fast. The hospital wanted a wayfinding system that could reduce the stress of parking and help parents and children move on with their day.
Any driver looking for parking can find the experience stressful and time-consuming. In fact, the average American wastes 17 hours every year looking for parking. Add in the complexity of the medical or college environment, where timing is crucial, and lost time can translate into missed appointments, academic loss, and a bad mood that spills into the rest of the day.
But there’s a better way.
Parking Counting Solutions for Constant Coming and Going
Parking guidance, of course, can help drivers on your campus find somewhere to park. But it can be a costly proposition. The average indoor camera or ultrasonic system can cost around $175k to install in a typical 500 space facility. Wireless single space sensors come in at a slightly lower cost of $102k. Loop counters and overhead cameras, both touted as more affordable options, would still cost $27k for a 500 space facility. But OpenSpace, the innovative parking platform from Parking Logix, comes in at less than half of that- just $13k for a similar size facility. It’s the clear winner for cost. But what about performance?
The OpenSpace parking platform from Parking Logix is a simple, intuitive parking counting system that has been taking the industry by storm. The system simply uses sensors at ingress and egress points, saving the effort and cost of wiring each spot or using expensive camera systems. But despite its simplicity, the system boasts top accuracy in the market. With over 99% accuracy rates in parking counting, OpenSpace delivers real-time parking availability data that gets people into parking spots fast.
The OpenSpace system includes digital signage that is customized to display the data of your choice. You can choose to display all lot/garage information at your entrance and/or display signs outside each parking lot. Each sign can display the number of spots available or simply let drivers know when the lot is full. It can also let drivers know where the closest lot is with available parking spots.
At Seattle Children’s, administration didn’t want to share exactly how many spots were available, concerned that high usage rates would discourage already harried drivers. Instead, they wanted to simply display if spots were available or a lot was full. OpenSpace gives them the ability to simply show full or available so that drivers know whether to look for a spot or move on to another lot. It saves drivers valuable time navigating already full lots and makes the overwhelming task of finding parking on the large medical campus a lot more manageable.
At ISU, they installed OpenSpace in their garages, using driver feedback signs to let students know how many spots were available before entering. The University now has up-to-the-minute parking counts, displayed in bright LED digits for everyone to see. The simple plug-n-play system was installed in just a few hours and students can see accurate parking data without the school needing to wire each parking space.
Whether its doctors preparing for surgery, students arriving for a big test, or a patient headed in for a routine appointment during her lunch break, many drivers don’t want to wait until they’re on campus to find out where the best place to park is. You can save medical staff, patients, university faculty, and students precious time by giving them the data they need before they begin their journey. Our robust API integration lets you push data right to your website, your app, or the parking app of your choice. This gives drivers advance data on which lots are full or near full and which still have ample availability. It offers them the ability to make smarter decisions of where to allocate their time when they arrive on campus and need to park.
At the Akron Children’s Hospital garage, for example, the complex 4 level parking deck made it difficult for drivers to know what level they were currently on and what parking availability was like near them and on other levels. The hospital installed the wireless four level OpenSpace counting system and chose to display data on 5 interior variable message signs. The signs show drivers what level they’re on and how many parking spaces are ahead, enhancing the visitor experience before patients even enter the hospital’s doors. And the entire system was fully installed in just 3 days.
The backend data is also helpful for administration in fielding complaints or making decisions about parking expansion or usage. At ISU, staff uses the data to respond to students who complain on social media, sharing data on actual availability in response to complaints that there’s nowhere to park.
In university and medical environments, where students and patients are often very vocal about their parking needs, the positive response to a parking counting system like OpenSpace is often overwhelmingly positive.
In fact, at Baylor University, the administration funded a single OpenSpace system in one of the five campus garages. Students, who had formerly been openly disgruntled at the lack of parking, were enthusiastic about the convenience the new system offered, letting them know how many spots were available. Their enthusiasm went beyond verbiage however, with the student government using $20,000 of their discretionary funds to purchase OpenSpace systems for three more of the university’s garages.
Finding parking in a constantly changing environment like a university or medical campus can be frustrating. At Parking Logix, we help thousands of campuses simplify parking so they can get where they need to be, and out of their cars, faster.