The University of Wisconsin-Madison is located in downtown Madison and is home to 75,000 employees, students, and visitors on a daily basis. The campus has 13,000 parking spaces to meet its daily need. To support the access needs of the campus, a number of alternative transportation programs have been developed.
While having a limited number of parking spaces to meet demand is not unique for universities, one area that makes this campus unique is that virtually no vehicle parking is sold to students—of the 10,000 parking permits issued each year, only 300 are allocated for student use. Because students cannot bring vehicles onto campus, most live in student housing that is within walking or biking distance from the campus, and many use the city bus system to get to and from school.
A Rise in Moped Use
Wisconsin state statute defines a moped as any motorized vehicle with a combustion chamber of 50 ccs or less that has pedals. Motor scooters are defined the same way, except they do not have pedals. Both kinds of vehicles must be licensed by the state for use on public roads. The University of Wisconsin-Madison categorizes both of these vehicle types as mopeds for programmatic purposes.
Before 2003, the campus saw fewer than 50 mopeds per year and they were not a significant issue. However, that changed during the 2003-2004 school year. A special survey of mopeds on campus was conducted and it found there were approximately 680 mopeds parking on the campus each day. By 2006, more than 900 mopeds were on campus each day.
One might expect that the use of mopeds would be limited to the non-winter months in a northern climate like ours, but this was not the case. While the number of mopeds on campus did decline in the winter, there were still approximately 300 being used daily.
The reason for the sudden increase in the number of mopeds on campus was never pinpointed. Several theories were formulated, but the three that seemed most logical were that the mopeds allowed students greater freedom to choose where they lived, they provided a means for students to get to work and other activities, and they could be parked at the entrance just like bicycles.
With the number of mopeds on campus continuing to grow and safety concerns being raised about their use, there were soon calls to manage moped parking. The big challenge in doing that was that Wisconsin state statute treated scooters and moped as bicycles when it came to parking regulations.
For the 2005-2006 school year, a new parking policy was put in place to manage the use of mopeds on campus. The policy consisted of:
- Creating more than 1,000 designated moped parking stalls in 38 lots.
- Requiring moped parking permits for on-campus parking from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
- Prohibiting mopeds from parking at bicycle racks.
- Issuing warnings and citations to moped drivers who violated the rules.
- Changing construction guidelines to include moped parking areas as part of all new capital construction projects.
Along with the new parking polices, Transportation Services created a marketing plan to educate our community on the changes and help change behaviors. The department also partnered with campus police to produce a safety video that helped educate users on how mopeds should be driven on campus.
Thanks in part to the improved infrastructure for mopeds, their use by students and employees continued to grow. By the 2010-2011 school year, the number of mopeds on campus every day reached 1,800. To meet this daily demand, Transportation Services created 1,780 spaces in 76 moped parking lots and increased the fee for a moped permit to $85 per year. Still, the department continued to receive complaints about conflicts between pedestrians, bicyclists, and moped drivers. It was also commonly held that many moped users were not just using their mopeds as a means to commute to and from the campus, but also to get around the campus itself.
To deal with that, Transportation Services partnered with the College of Engineering Traffic Operations and Safety Lab and conducted studies of moped use on campus. These focused on where moped owners lived relative to campus, occupancy of moped parking lots, intra-campus movement of mopeds, and safety.
Based on the initial survey, it was concluded that almost 50 percent of registered moped permit holders lived near the campus, with 20 percent living within three blocks. The study also determined that there had been a total of 96 reported traffic accidents involving mopeds, many of which were results of unsafe driving. Finally, the initial study indicated that mopeds may have been used as an intra-campus commuting option, but the sample size was not sufficient enough to draw valid conclusions.
The second portion of the study focused on surveying each moped parking lot throughout the day to determine intra-campus movement. A total of 40 parking lots were observed during the study, and 4,037 observations were made. This study found that approximately 42 percent of the mopeds on campus were parking in two or more different lots throughout the day. Thirty-three mopeds were observed parking in more than four different lots within a single day.
The survey gave Transportation Services enough information to formulate changes to the moped program and encourage safer habits among drivers. Changing behavior that had become engrained among moped users was a huge challenge.
A series of public forums was held on campus to discuss moped parking and gather feedback from users on potential program changes. Information was also placed on the Transportation Services website (transportation.wisc.edu), and press releases were sent to the campus and local media outlets. Concerns raised at the forum ranged from a lack of ability to get from class to class without a moped to what drivers should do if an assigned parking lot was full when they arrived on campus.
Based on the feedback obtained from the forum, the new moped parking program was formalized. This consisted of creating a lot-specific moped parking permit program similar to that already used for vehicle parking. Each moped user would select one lot to be their primary parking area. Six all-access lots were designed around the perimeter of campus to allow limited mobility for moped users. Permit prices were increased to $120 per year, which was equal to the price of motorcycle parking permits. Waiting lists were created for each parking lot, and users had the opportunity to move to more centralized lots as space became available.
An extensive marketing effort was produced to educate all moped user on the changes. Transportation staff attended new-student orientation to talk about the ways mopeds could and could not be used on campus. Plans were made to have additional staffing in the moped parking lots at the start of the semester to help educate and enforce the changes to the program.
Thankfully, the plans and changes worked well. The total number of moped permits sold for the 2012-2013 school year was down 40 percent below preceding years to 1,100 permits. The wait list for all parking lots was cleared by October 2012. The average occupancy of the parking lots is currently 35 percent. Due to the drop in demand for moped parking, the number of moped parking lots was reduced to 58 that house 1,600 spaces. The parking lots that were removed from the moped program were those located close to building entrances or that forced drivers to go onto sidewalks to get to the lots.
Transportation Services is currently evaluating the demand for moped parking lots and plans to continue to reduce the supply of parking accordingly. All future moped parking spaces will be located along the terrace of a street between the roadway and sidewalk, in lots with dedicated drive aisles, or integrated into existing vehicle parking lots.
The response to the new program has been mixed. Users initially complained that we had reduced their ability to have mopeds on campus and feared they would no longer be able to make their classes. Once they better understood the program and realized they would be able to park in the same lot every day no matter when they came to campus, the complaints subsided.
Transportation Services has received many compliments from non-moped users since the program changes took effect. There are fewer mopeds seen driving around the campus and the perception is that the overall roadways and sidewalks are safer. There are still cases when mopeds are operated in an unsafe manner, but they are rare.
From a campus access and safety standpoint, the change in moped parking and use has allowed this transportation option to be a viable part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s parking program while substantially reducing conflicts with other drivers and safety issues.
Patrick J. Kass, CAPP, is director of transportation services, facilities planning and management, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He can be reached at email@example.com or 608.265.3200.