Cars pose numerous challenges for colleges and universities. High volumes of vehicular traffic create congestion and negatively impact pedestrian safety. Demand for parking can be a costly headache for administrators, as increasing parking capacity is very costly and usually takes many years to recoup those expenses.
Given these issues, many educational institutions are looking for ways to cut traffic and reduce parking demand on campus. These nine strategies are known to have a positive impact, and are all well worth considering if you’re looking to encourage students, faculty, and staff to try alternative modes of commuting:
Switch to daily parking
One of the most effective, but also difficult, ways to influence parking demand is to allow commuters to only pay for parking on days they really need it. With monthly or annual parking passes, once commuters pay they may feel motivated to park more often because the cost has already been paid. When commuters switch over to a pay-per-use system, they often think twice before driving to campus.
Reserve the best parking spots for carpool vehicles
Many private sector employers use a related strategy to reduce parking demand: reserving conveniently located and priority parking places for carpool vehicles. This strategy is effective for two main reasons:
First, it acts as a free way of promoting your university ridesharing and commuter services program. Priority parking spots have high visibility, and giving exclusive use of them to carpool vehicles raises awareness among campus community members.
Second, it works to reduce campus parking demand by encouraging more people to participate in rideshare programs. Fewer vehicles on campus means more parking will remain available, easing congestion and parking woes while boosting safety and reducing emissions.
Offer subsidized transit passes
Make buses, subways, and other local options more affordable and accessible to cash-strapped student populations by subsidizing monthly transit passes. You can drive high adoption and participation rates by bundling the cost of the subsidized pass in with each semester or academic year’s billing cycle. Students enjoy ongoing access to local transit networks for a low cost that’s covered up front, making public transportation access seem “free.”
Of course, to avoid hassles and headaches, it’s also good to work in an opt-out avenue for students who don’t want to participate.
Create staggered class schedules
Avoid having everyone piling onto campus at the same time by staggering class schedules based on traffic flow patterns. It may help to analyze if there are certain types of classes that tend to have a higher proportion of off-campus students and prioritize scheduling those during different times of the day.
In larger metro areas, it’s also a good idea to schedule classes during off-peak hours to the greatest possible extent. Citywide traffic congestion is usually much lower during the late morning and early afternoon, making these ideal times for students to be traveling to campus.
Offer creative alternatives
At the University of New England, freshmen who pledge not to drive to campus receive 35 free hours of Zipcar service. Administrators report the strategy has been very effective. The University of Louisville offers a similar program where students can opt to forego parking permits to participate in an earn-a-bike program and access to a $400 bicycle voucher.
Add secure bike parking
Place bike racks around campus in high-visibility places, and protect them with features such as weatherproofing and security cameras. If people know secure bike parking is always available, they’re more likely to use it.
As an alternative: consider installing a bikeshare station on campus, if bikeshares are available in your community and your campus doesn’t already participate. This lets students who don’t already own a bike become active commuters without requiring an expensive financial commitment.
Create a campus-wide ridesharing community
Interactive digital ridesharing boards make it fast and easy for campus members to find a ride to or from campus anytime of day or night. These can also be expanded to include intercity rides on weekends and during school breaks, helping students break free of expensive and inefficient solo driving habits.
Remember: making ridesharing a convenient, easily accessible alternative to solo driving is one of the best ways to reduce parking demand on campus.
Establish vanpool connections
Connect the campus to local public transportation hubs with a vanpool program. Such programs provide efficient, reliable, quick solutions to the so-called “last mile” problem. University vanpools are actually pretty easy to start, and they offer a far more favorable cost profile than building new parking facilities.
Try a rewards program
At the University of Arizona, campus community members who choose smart commuting modes can earn points they can then redeem for a variety of rewards like FitBits, Beats headphones, and university gear. In addition, just for signing up for the program users are eligible for 5 free Emergency Ride Home vouchers.
RideAmigos is already helping many universities reduce parking demand on campus, cut traffic, and help fight congestion and pollution in their local communities. We’d love for our cutting-edge commuter management apps to help you author an inspiring success story. Contact us today to get started.