7 tips for better parking lot management

| November 20, 2012 | 3 Comments

crowded parking lot

Creating a cost-effective, convenient, and secure parking system for any facility presents special challenges (via Bruce Fong’s Blog).

In a recent interview with Ryan Greene, the manager of parking and transportation at Georgia College, MyParkingPermit.com learned a few secrets about optimizing a parking program. Greene has no easy task; Georgia College has about 7,000 students and 3,500 parking spaces. Managing the cost, security, and effectiveness of thousands of spots requires careful strategizing.

But, with the proper programs and structures in place, it can be an undertaking that is far less daunting than it seems. If you’re a parking lot operator or a business owner with parking at your facility, this insider knowledge can help prevent inefficiencies or losses before they happen. Here are seven tips on how to make your parking situation more convenient, cost-effective, and secure.

Convenience

The toughest challenge Greene faces as the head of parking is making sure that everyone has a place to park, reasonably close to their classes. With the varying schedules of students and faculty, the college’s spots are never fully taken. However, the location of open spots is crucial. How helpful is an available spot for a student who needs to walk 20 minutes to get from the parking lot to her class?

It’s not always easy to install parking in heavily-trafficked areas, particularly at a college, where there are so many buildings. Conscious of these challenges, Georgia College has implemented a few strategies to make parking more convenient. These tips are transferable across other properties and institutions as well.

1. Use shuttles.

For larger institutions (schools, parks, housing complexes), having a transportation system work in tandem with the parking system can minimize the inconvenience of trekking from your parking space to the final destination. Georgia College has about 10-15 shuttles transporting students, faculty, staff and employees throughout their entire campus, stopping at most of the parking lots.

Georgia College shuttle bus

Georgia College shuttles transport students from their cars to their classes from 7 a.m. – 11 p.m. daily (via Georgia College). 

      2. Sell spaces.

Many operators will reserve parking for VIPs, but what about your non-c-suite employees? In an optimal parking system, everybody gets the opportunity to have a parking space where and when they want one. Parking permits help make this possible; they are useful for organizing your spaces, increasing your security, and raising your revenues. On top of parking permits, consider raffling off a few choice spots to interested visitors.

Georgia College doesn’t employ this strategy (yet), but Greene predicts that the program will be popular; he foresees many of the faculty buying permanent spots should they become available. Greene suggests that parking lot operators start out by offering a few, and if demand increases, raising both the price per month and the supply. This would also add some extra revenue which could be reinvested in parking lot maintenance or security.

Sign: Defense Attorney Parking Only

Prosecutors should receive equal treatment in the parking lot (via MyParkingSign.com).

Saving Money

Though most people take parking for granted, the fact of the matter is, it’s expensive. The cost of construction, maintenance, security, signage, and licensing can be a constant headache for any parking operator. These next two tips can not only help by keeping costs down–they can also pay for them.

  3. Forget about parking garages.                                          

For those of you who already manage parking garages, skip to number four. For everyone else, if you’re debating between building a parking garage or a couple of surface lots, choose the surface lot option. Including construction, attendants, and maintenance, the cost can be as much as $20,000 or more for a single space. This figure of course decreases depending on lot size and how long it’s been around. However, holding the number of parking spaces constant, a surface lot is SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper to build and maintain than a garage. To learn more about the high cost of parking, read this New York Times article highlighting urban planning professor Donald Shoup’s research.

Parking garage on Culbreth Road

A parking garage can make a serious dent in your finances (via University of Virginia).

      4. Sell permits.

This may seem obvious, but many institutions still don’t have a parking permit management system in place, and if they do it’s not always enforced. A retail store doesn’t have this option as almost none of its visitors are habitual. However, high schools, universities, apartment complexes, residential communities, and large company lots can all utilize an organized permit system to help pay for the high cost of parking.

Change permits every year. Hire enforcement personnel to ensure that all cars have valid permits. Take Georgia College’s model: parking personnel checks all parked cars between 8 A.M. – 5 P.M. This will not only help make sure that people are paying for their permits but will also keep spaces open for those who have paid for them.

Security

The most important duty of a parking manager is often overlooked. What good does a parking system do if it’s not enforced? Furthermore, what’s the point if people are getting harmed? Use these last three tips to beef up security at your lot.

      5. Install CCTV.

Install security cameras in every lot. There is an ongoing debate on the efficacy of cameras, but most experts say that they help reduce crime, particularly in dangerous areas. A camera will not only help prevent theft and violent crimes, but should also help cut down on parking violators, as the camera can record license plates. For the protection of your students, customers, and employees, it’s worth it. A sign can help by acting as a reminder of the camera’s presence, making it a powerful deterrent.

Sign: Attention Parking Lot Under Video Surveillance

Most people won’t look for a camera in a parking lot; post a sign to alert them (via MySecuritySign.com).

       6. Install good lighting.

Since most violent crimes happen at night (9 PM is the most dangerous hour), extend daylight as long as possible. Criminals avoid well-lit areas; not only do they have a better chance of being spotted, but a camera (if you’ve installed one) can record a clearer image. If you can, try to have light shining on every parking space.

      7. Utilize the police.

If you’re a larger facility with a budget for security personnel, hire campus police, or divert some of your existing enforcement resources to your lots. Have police do routine checks for vandalism, parking violations, and any other illegal activity. Double dip and put them in charge of handing out parking tickets.

Do you have any tips or experiences that would help make a parking lot operator’s life any easier? Any complaints on how your school or facility manages its parking? I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a tweet or post your thoughts in the comments section below.

-D. Male

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  1. Craig says:

    I like the article. You’ve seem to have done some great research, but I don’t know about no parking garages. Wouldn’t Parking structures allow for much more space? I’m sure in environments with cheap real estate flatter solutions would be cheaper, but in LA wouldn’t a parking garage eventually be cheaper as more and more spaces are added?

    Just a thought. Great post though.

    • Daniel says:

      Thanks for the comment Craig. You’re right, parking garages are definitely great solutions for space shortages, but if you can avoid building a garage, you should. In urban areas this is difficult. But, many schools and campuses are located in rural areas where space is in great supply. For those folks, surface lots can save a lot of money.

  2. Miles says:

    Kudos on weaving in the expertise of an experienced parking manager to such an interesting and practical topic.

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