Tag Archives: TPP-2012-05-

Getting On The Bus

TPP-2012-05-Getting On The BusBy Josh Cohen

No one needs to be reminded that parking decks are expensive to build and maintain. In 2010, the University of Florida built a $20 million LEED-certified, 927-space parking deck.

Likewise, no one needs to be told that campus transit is expensive. North Carolina State University spends almost $5 million annually to run their 29-bus Wolfline shuttle service.

But there’s a major difference between the two: parking garages aren’t as scalable as buses. If more people use your garage, it doesn’t ease congestion on campus, conserve the natural resources on your campus, or reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.

If you’re going to spend millions of dollars annually to provide transit, it makes sense to get more people on the buses.  It costs the same to run those buses whether they are totally empty or completely full.

So how do we fill buses? Through the judicious use of technology, transportation demand management (TDM), and engagement with riders.

In 1995 when I entered college, no one had a mobile phone. Only the student body president had one by the time I graduated. Today, 99.8 percent of college students have them, according to a study from Ball State University.

As the technology expectations of university students increase, real-time passenger information becomes more popular.  Real-time passenger information gives riders access to bus locations and estimated arrival times from the web, mobile web, native iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry apps, and at their bus stops.

As a transit manager using this technology, you’ll get fewer complaints, fewer calls asking where the bus is, and a spirit of goodwill because you’re providing something tangible to your riders instead of just taking their student fee money.  You can also increase your ridership.

Recently, we looked at data from three customers who provided ridership data before and after adding this kind of technology.  They had increases of between 4 and 14 percent in ridership.

That increase removed thousands of cars from campus and reduced carbon emissions by more than 650 tons.

A recent survey by a Lock Haven University professor indicates that many college students spend more than two hours a day using Facebook and sending SMS messages. These platforms allow students to get information about their friends quickly and easily. There’s no reason transit information can’t be shared as easily.

For campuses without GPS hardware on their shuttles, providing access to route and schedule information on mobile phones is another way to make taking the bus easier. For instance, BlackBoard Mobile provides schedule information through smart phone applications for college campuses.

The lesson here is that technology is not going anywhere.  What real-time passenger information and mobile access to routes and schedules are doing is giving riders the information they want in the format that they want it. Leveraging technology for these interactions with your riders can help get more people on the bus and will complement your TDM program.

Transportation Demand Management
TDM creates policies that will reduce the use of single occupancy vehicles.

Getting people to consider alternatives to their single-occupancy vehicles is difficult. As Glenn Kurtz, vice president of alternative transportation at Lanier Parking, blogged, “It seems when you have a car, you drive it, even if other options are available. It is like having a big piece of chocolate cake placed in front of you after every meal. You just eat it.”

Stanford University and Grand Valley State University (GVSU), among others, excel at getting people to swear off that chocolate cake by providing multiple commuting options and commitment to their plans. They provide numerous options for folks to consider, from transit to support for biking to carpooling software to cash back for giving up parking passes.  Not all of these options will lead directly to transit changes, but they will help make your campus greener and force your constituents to think creatively about their commutes.

The second way Stanford and GVSU have been successful is by their commitment—especially at the highest levels of their organizations—to their TDM programs.

This commitment can be seen not only in the magnitude of their marketing programs, but also in synergy with local businesses and transit to help market the programs.
The results are significant. Stanford has seen a considerable drop in their employees who drive alone, from 72 percent to 52 percent. GVSU’s more bus-centric TDM program has seen growth in campus bus ridership from 45,000 in 1996 to 2.6 million in 2010.

Though these TDM programs encourage many commute modes, getting people to start biking, walking, or carpooling will make it more likely they will use the bus when their preferred mode of transport is unavailable.
If you want to have a successful transit program, you can’t just stick buses out there and expect riders to hop on. TDM programs take resources and commitment, but they will get more people on the bus (or walking or riding two wheels).

The final piece of the puzzle is engagement with your riders. Once your riders benefit from technology and TDM, you need to get them and other stakeholders to interact with transit and spread the word.  That’s where engagement comes in.

The simple fact is that a pleasant transit experience will help attract more riders. Ensuring that buses and shelters are clean and well-maintained is a good first step. If potential riders feel that buses or shelters aren’t well maintained, they won’t expect to be well taken care of.  Technology and TDM programs show that you are committed to transit and that transit is not just something for those who can’t afford a car or parking permit.

If you treat your system like an asset, you can attract those choice riders who may have written you off. How do you reach them, though? One way that is becoming more prevalent every day is social media.

Social Media
Most campus transit riders are students.  And students and younger riders are getting information in places such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Flickr. None of these is a cure-all, but each represents another way that you can engage your riders.

TheTransitWire.com keeps a handy list of transit agencies using social media. See what you can learn. If you make it easier for choice riders to connect with you and connect with each other, you will remove one of transit’s barriers to entry, especially for choice riders.

Some of you are thinking that social media would become overloaded with complaints or you wouldn’t be able to keep up with the social media responsibilities.

Josh Cantor, the director of transportation and parking at George Mason University, referenced this during a C-PARK listserv conversation about social media:  “The reality is that people are saying negative things about parking on some message board or forum. You might as well take it on and present the facts rather than let myths and false stories perpetuate.”

As for the ongoing social media responsibilities, consider the thousands of experts on these tools walking around your campus who come rather cheap: work-study students or interns.

I hope these three tools—technology, TDM, and engagement—will allow you to leverage your existing transportation resources more effectively.

Josh Cohen is director of business development at TransLoc, Inc. He can be reached at josh.cohen@transloc-inc.com or 919.926.9976

TPP-2012-05-Getting On The Bus

Mission Possible

TPP-2012-05-Mission PossibleBy Frank Giles

What is your mission and how do you get each member of your team to adopt it as their own? How do you refine your team so they are not only willing but also able to take on the mission? Failure to explore these questions can allow a potentially successful operation to be just another lousy deck or worse. It can cause a parking manager and the operation to fail. A good parking manager knows that a top notch operation takes more than just bright white lines and fancy new gates.

Communicate the Mission
There is an old saying that goes, “When you know better you’ll do better.” This statement proves true in team building. If every parking lot attendant, valet attendant, and shuttle driver was surveyed, the likelihood is high that most do not know the mission or mission statements of the organization. What’s worse is that many managers would not know the mission either. Worse still is that a few organizations don’t even have mission statements.

If a manager has not effectively developed and communicated the mission, the staff will operate off instinct, gumption, and selfish inclinations. These otherwise valuable staff members subconsciously create missions of their own, but the staff-created mission does not serve the team. It only serves the individual.

A mission can be communicated through staff meetings, memos, morning huddles, or virtually any medium that gives the manager a captive audience. The trick is keeping it at the forefront. It’s hard to keep the important stuff on the front burner when there are bigger fish to fry. Make the mission the axis point of every aspect of the operation. Everything from cash handling to customer service should hinge on the mission. Slogans or catch phrases that agree with the mission are good tools to promote team spirit and focus. They can be used whenever someone does a good job with a task or even for friendly competition among co-workers.

Grant Authority
Your employees may be willing but are they able? Communicating the mission does little good if the team does not have the skills or the authority to see it through. Granting authority to the team generates a sense of investment, and if staff are invested in the operation they won’t just work for the parking manager, but with the parking manager.

For many managers, developing staff skills is the easy part. Honing the skills of the staff requires training, and every manager can find a PowerPoint presentation or webinar training laying around somewhere. The hard part is granting authority to your staff. This requires self training, which is not necessarily a click and point undertaking.

If excellent customer service is a part of your organization’s mission, parking attendants should be trained and authorized to address issues as they arise. The training part takes time and the authorizing part takes trust. The good news is that the two go hand-in-hand. Although it can be difficult for a manager to loosen the Kung-Fu grip that many have around operational authority (trust me, I know), it can be a great joy to see a well-trained team show initiative and exercise authority in the interest of the mission.

Try to find those responsibilities in the operation that could be shared with the team but have not yet been. Equipment maintenance, customer issues, or even certain office reports may be some good areas to wean one away from. Of course each manager should choose these areas carefully. The important thing is to get the team invested.

Back the Team
When you do not get behind your team, your team will not get behind you. If the manager is not invested in the team, the team will not be invested in the manager. This means making sure the team has the tools and equipment needed to be successful, but it also means backing the team when things may not look their best. A good manager should consistently stick up for the team when they are correct and offer honesty, opportunity, and education when they are wrong. Not only should a parking manager do these things, but it should be common knowledge among the team that this is consistent behavior to be expected and counted on.

Backing the team doesn’t mean patting them on the back when they tell a customer off or giving them a pass when they mistreat or upset a property owner. It means giving them the opportunity to improve, explain themselves, correct the situation if possible, make it right, and do better the next time. Helping the team get it right is an investment in the team, and that is as important as their investment in the mission.

Share the Glory
A final component to rallying the team around the mission is allowing them to experience the victories. To share the mission, you must share the glory.

Some may ask, “What glory?” We all receive some type of glory from the little victories of being managers—that little pat on the back when budget numbers are met or after the successful audit or inspection. One can assume that the general team would get little pleasure out of these things, but try them. If the team is a part of the operation, they are part of the success. Don’t doubt the motivation little successes may bring.

At the end of the day that’s the goal: motivation. Managers train, delegate, problem solve, and lead, but in order for a team to fully conform to the mission, its members must be motivated. The team’s motivation is determined by their willingness to make the mission and the operation a success.

The Measure of Success
This begs the questions: “How do we know if we are successful in our mission? How do we measure success?” It may be difficult to find a true yard stick that will measure success. Of course the raw numbers are what they are, but it can be argued that a productive facility must also maintain customer satisfaction, efficiency, outward appearance, and community effects. For these things to come together, the team must be invested in the mission. Find a way to measure the team’s investment, drive, or the extra mile.

I found a way to do this one February evening. It was cold and it had been a long day parking a busy event at the convention center. One of my parking attendants had just concluded a 10-hour shift and was noticeably tired. After completing the cash handling procedures, she clocked out and gathered her things. I watched her make her way through the parking lot headed to her car. When she got there she placed her belongings on the hood of the car and continued to walk a bit further. Her walk soon turned into a trot. It was then that I realized she was trying to chase down a wayward paper cup blowing across the parking lot. She chased it until she was able to step on it and carry it to the nearest trash can. I knew then that she was invested in the operation beyond her hourly wage. Chasing that paper cup demonstrated her commitment to her manager and her team but more importantly to the mission. So, how is success measured?

Personally, I measure success in paper cups!

Frank Giles is director of parking at the Georgia International Convention Center. He can be reached at flgiles@gicc.com or 770.907.3054

TPP-2012-05-Mission Possible

Transit parking best practices deliver sustainable benefits to parking facilities and communities

TPP-2012-05-Transit parking best practices deliver sustainable benefits to parking facilities and communitiesBy Matt Davis

As communities develop and refine walkable, transit-friendly environments, stakeholders experience challenges associated with parking. These vibrant neighborhoods become popular destinations, which increases congestion and the demand for parking. The following transit parking best practices are designed to help stakeholders navigate these challenges and achieve efficient and effective parking. Adequate parking and greater adoption of public transportation equates to a reduction in traffic congestion, fuel consumption, pollution, and parking sprawl.

Understanding the Transit Context
It is important to understand the specific type of transit that parking serves to be able to design the best solution. In a transit village, parking should be located so it encourages patrons to walk by the commercial areas to stimulate activity. Because use patterns for each type of transit station are different depending on whether the main transit mode is bus, train, lightrail, ferry, or a combination of modes, parking solutions will vary for each individual transit station. For example, the number of bus passengers boarding at a given time varies with the number of train passengers, which in turn means the traffic flow arriving is different, which affects the design of entrance and exits for vehicles and pedestrians.

Program Mixed Uses
Mixed uses, such as retail and residential developments, play an important role in activating a transit station and creating a more secure, active environment. Mixed uses increase train and bus ridership, encourage walkable communities near transit, reduce auto use, and enhance multi-modal access. By providing mixed uses such as retail, destinations are created that will improve the quality of the parking experience for all users. A residential mixed use is a prerequisite for a transit village and reduces automobile congestion as well as the costs associated with travel to and from work. A transit village or transit oriented development (TOD), is a moderate to higher density development located within an easy walk of a major transit stop, generally with a mix of residential, employment, and shopping opportunities designed for pedestrians that do not exclude automobiles.

Access Demand Issues and Supply Solutions
The first step in planning a new transit station or transit village is to evaluate the demand for parking in the area through demand studies. A parking management plan (PMP) should describe how the parking supply will be managed. As part of developing the PMP, the effect charging for parking has on the parking demand and ridership can be evaluated.

Integrate Walkability
For transit parking to be successful, a network of safe, direct, and attractively landscaped paths must connect the residential, retail, and transit components over a reasonably sized, walkable area. The close proximity of these elements is required to be considered walkable.

Mitigate Modal Conflicts
Possibly the biggest challenges in developing a transit station or village are the inherent conflicts between pedestrians, autos, buses, trains, and other modes of transit. It is imperative to design to protect each and provide an atmosphere of safety. In addition, each mode is more efficient when it’s effectively isolated and separated from the others. For example, a pedestrian walkway should be protected from vehicle traffic with bollards and/or landscaping.

Provide Clear Wayfinding
Clear wayfinding is a requirement for all transit stations and villages. Informational kiosks and plentiful signage are a must and when a parking structure is present, stair and elevator towers work well as passive signage when exposed as opposed to hidden. Colors and symbols used to reflect the various parking levels can be used as effective wayfinding and enhance the station’s theme or characteristic.

Design for Low Maintenance
Because many transit stations are built with funding that doesn’t include money for maintenance, designing for low maintenance is imperative. Choosing durable materials, protecting all metals with galvanizing or powder coating, using low energy and low maintenance lights, designing durable, low maintenance landscaping, and using anti-graffiti coatings and materials that are naturally resistant to vandalism help lower costs over time. The incorporation of alternative energy sources such as photovoltaic (solar) systems will help reduce ongoing electric costs, which are usually the most costly item in the maintenance budget for parking structures.

Include Revenue Concepts
There are a number of options to generate revenue at transit stations. The inclusion of mixed use such as retail, charging for parking, coffee or snack kiosks, cell tower antennae rooms, and advertising opportunities can all be effective revenue generation options. Many agencies are taking innovative approaches. For example, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), San Francisco, offers reservations for premium parking spaces before 10 a.m. at high ridership stations, while John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, Calif., offers valet parking.

Incorporate Appropriate Security Design
Security is a prime concern in all parking structure environments, especially transit stations. Passive security or crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) such as glass-backed elevators, open stairwells, and eliminating hiding spots behind walls can be effective at deterring crime. In addition, code blue emergency phones, security guards, and video surveillance systems should be considered based on location.

To see how all of this might come together, let’s take a look at a real-world example.

The Tustin Metrolink Station
The Orange County Transit Authority (OCTA) Tustin Metrolink Station in Tustin, Calif., was designed and constructed as a joint venture between the City of Tustin and the OCTA. Increased parking was necessary to boost ridership at the station. Due to site constraints, a parking structure became the focus of investment.

The existing facility’s parking capacity was only 317 stalls. By increasing the parking capacity at the station to 825 stalls, commuters were given alternatives to the automobile for their commutes. The Metrolink commuter trains, bus rapid transit lines, local bus lines, rail feeder buses, and Go Local shuttles make the station a hub for regional transit.

To provide bus and train passengers a convenient location to transfer between transportation modes, additional bus docks were added to the station. Transit accessibility and intermodal connectivity were enhanced with four additional bus docks to increase bus service, two additional Go Local shuttle docks, information kiosks, bus shelters, and new signage and wayfinding elements. While the goal of the Metrolink Station is to be a multi-modal hub and part of the backbone of the regional transportation system, the OCTA and the city both insisted on design and construction methods that maximized sustainability while minimizing maintenance and operations costs.

In addition to the transportation and sustainable elements that define this project, revenue generating features were included to minimize the operations and maintenance costs. This project’s sustainable elements provide a great example of best practices that can be applied to other projects:

Large scale mixed use didn’t pencil out. However, to improve the transit experience for users, space and infrastructure was provided for coffee and snack kiosks.
The station was sized to allow for planned increases in ridership at this regional multi-modal hub.

Pedestrians can conveniently access the station from the north side of the tracks using a landscaped path. The train platform and bus docks are located in close proximity to facilitate multi-modal trips. The segregation of modes of transportation creates a safe walking environment.

To minimize vehicular/transit/pedestrian conflicts, the station includes a unique, segregated drive aisle that expedites automobile entering and exiting. Buses and bus docks are separated from pedestrians. Automobiles and buses are quickly separated upon entering the site. Stair and elevator towers for the parking structure are located so pedestrians do not conflict with automobiles or buses. A distinct kiss & ride area, ample bus dock section, and designated pedestrian paths enhance safety.
New information kiosks were provided to help users plan their multi-modal trips. The dual elevator tower provides clear onsite wayfinding to the parking structure. Parking structure levels are color coded to help users remember where they parked, and a stall counting and guidance system was included to help users locate the nearest available parking space.

The Tustin Metrolink Station includes multiple revenue generating elements such as outdoor coffee and snack kiosks, as well as accommodations for cell tower antennaes in rooms in the tower.

The design incorporates LED lighting with long fixture life to eliminate the need to replace lamps over time, and drought resistant landscaping. In addition, the cast in place concrete requires minimal maintenance. The stair rails and architectural screens were powder coated to maintain their color and appearance for decades. Other metal elements in the parking structure were galvanized to prevent rust.

Active security measures at the Tustin Metrolink Station include a video surveillance system that monitors the entire parking structure and train platform, code blue emergency phones in the parking structure and throughout the site and train platform, evenly spaced bright LED lighting in the parking structure and site, and patrols from the Tustin Police Department. Passive security or crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) is accomplished through the use of glass backed elevators, open stairwells, and placing shear walls at the interior of the building to provide a more open feel.

This project is an example of using creative solutions to make transit more attractive and help boost a community’s sustainability.

Matt Davis is assistant project manager with Watry Design, Inc. He can be reached at mdavis@watrydesign.com or 650.298.8150.

TPP-2012-05-Transit parking best practices deliver sustainable benefits to parking facilities and communities

Backing In

TPP-2012-05-Backing InBy John A. Nawn, P.E., PTOE

In many communities’ central business districts (CBDs), a lack of available parking close to retail and commercial establishments is seen as a deterrent to continued retail development and reinvestment. One solution is back-in angle parking. The biomechanics necessary to position a car into a back-in angle space are not much different than those required for parallel parking, and leaving the space is no more different than pulling into the street. Furthermore, no maneuver space, as is required for pull-in angle parking, is typically required for a parallel parking space. Without the need for a maneuver space, the back-in angle parking provides the necessary additional parking without the need for the excessive or unavailable right of way.

The Borough of Pottstown, Pa., had struggled to revitalize and reinvigorate its downtown core since the 1990s. Its 1994 Downtown Comprehensive Plan identified several goals that specifically dealt with the creation of a more pedestrian friendly, multi-modal environment that would maximize the amount of available close-in parking.

Located in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, the Borough of Pottstown traces its routes to 1752. As the borough developed, the CBD also developed, centered along High Street, which became the town’s “Main Street.” Like many other local communities, Pottstown hosted a trolley operation in the early 1900s that traveled down the center of High Street and was double tracked, reflecting Pottstown’s prominence in the region’s economy.

With the abandonment of the trolley service and the increase in automobile traffic after World War II, the High Street cross section was reconfigured to maximize automobile mobility. With 68 feet available between the curb lines, two 11-foot through lanes and a 7-foot parallel parking lane were created in each direction along with a 10-foot wide center turn lane/painted median. Combined with a 16-foot sidewalk on each side, the face of the buildings on each side of the street are 100 feet apart, creating a very wide corridor through the CBD. The width of the corridor in and of itself was perceived by some to be a deterrent to downtown redevelopment.

By the late 1960s, it was clear that High Street and nearby Ridge Pike were quickly becoming inadequate. To serve the ever-increasing traffic demand, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PENNDOT) undertook the construction of a four lane, grade separated, limited access freeway that bypassed the CBD and drew a large amount of the existing through traffic volume from High Street. Combined with a general decline in shopping within the CBD in favor of regional malls, High Street quickly became an underutilized transportation asset.

With four lanes of rapidly moving traffic, High Street was neither pedestrian nor shopper friendly. High Street’s 68-foot cross-section is intimidating and discourages pedestrians and shoppers from crossing the street. In addition, the vehicle traffic along High Street moved too quickly to allow passengers adequate time to identify shopping opportunities and find parking spaces. A perceived lack of parking was also identified as a concern of the downtown business owners. Although metered, parallel parking was available on both sides of High Street throughout the CBD, it was generally only 50 percent used. It was also not conducive to bicycle travel, with no dedicated bike lanes.

Rethinking the Street
The general thinking was that reconfiguring and calming traffic on High Street would address Pottstown’s economic development goals and have a positive effect on regional transportation and growth issues.

The findings of a study of High Street commissioned by the borough, among other things, included that the existing through lanes could be reduced to one lane in each direction without losing roadway function. The study then analyzed a number of alternative parking and lane scenarios for the CBD. The alternatives studied included three angle parking scenarios and two parallel parking scenarios. It should also be noted that while one solution could have been simply widening the sidewalks, it was deemed cost prohibitive due the length of the corridor.

The initial approach to the study was to establish the minimum required lane widths for the conventional elements of the roadway cross-section, leaving 36 feet available to support parking and bicycle lanes. Angle parking would likely only be possible on one side of the street, and parallel parking would be retained on the opposite side. With all the other minimum widths established and agreed upon, this left 18 feet available for angle parking.

Traditional pull in angle spaces require a maneuver area so vehicles can re-enter the roadway safely. However, with back-in angle parking, no such maneuver area is necessary. The human biomechanical motion used to enter a back-in angle parking space is similar to, if not easier than, entering a parallel parking space. For a 45 degree back-in angle space, the operator only needs to complete the first two steps of the typical parallel parking maneuver: he pulls past the space and proceeds in reverse into the space. When leaving the space to reenter the highway, the back-in angle space has a clear advantage over the parallel parking space: the movement requires only that the operator turn sideways, not backwards.

Room for Bikes
Accommodating bicycles within the roadway cross section was of key importance to the stakeholders, and sufficient width was planned. In general, traditional pull in angle parking and bicycling do not mix well. Back-in angle parking, on the other hand, can coexist well with cyclists and other forms of non-motorized vehicles. When entering a space during the backing maneuver, the cyclist can see the backing vehicle in time to take alternate action even if the vehicle operator fails to see the cycle. When leaving the space, the vehicle operator has sufficient sight distance to the left to see the approaching cyclist.

Ultimately, it was decided to locate a single 6-foot bike lane to the right of each travel lane, adjacent to the parallel and back-in angle parking, respectively. The combined 12-foot width was two feet more than originally allowed for in the design, which required shortening the back-in angle parking spaces by 2 feet to 16 feet. The remaining four feet, four inches exceeded PENNDOT’s minimum criteria for a one-directional bike lane and therefore, was acceptable.

Providing a 6-foot wide bike lane allows delivery vehicles to temporarily share it with cyclists without affecting through vehicular traffic. While it is recognized that the 6-foot lane is not wide enough to support most delivery vehicles, in combination with the adjacent 11-foot travel lane, the total 17-foot width is sufficient for vehicles to pass safely around delivery vehicles. Furthermore, with the 10-foot median remaining painted and flush with the pavement surface, additional maneuver space is available for through vehicles to pass parked delivery vehicles. The wide bike lane also provides maneuver space for both parallel and back-in angle parking, which reduces effects to the through movements.

One additional advantage of angle parking is the ability to provide for a handicap accessible stall in each block, something rarely provided for in downtown on street parking. A 13-foot wide handicap-parking stall was incorporated into the angle parking as the last space of each block. This placed the space close to the existing curb ramps. Fifty-foot long bus stops are also located at the far side of each intersection to accommodate bus boarding and bus layover if necessary, without blocking the through lane.

The decision as to which side of the street to locate the back-in angle parking was cause for much discussion among the stakeholders. Ultimately, the decision was based entirely on which side would yield the biggest increase in parking, and that was found to be the north side of High Street. The additional parking yield over the existing parallel parking per block varied greatly depending on the location of driveways, no-parking zones, and the like, with some blocks gaining as many as 23 spaces and some blocks as few as two. Overall, the downtown area gained a total of 95 new spaces, a 21 percent increase.

Analysis of accident experience pre- and post-parking makeover shows an overall reduction in the number and severity of accidents as a result of the installation. Although some accident categories increased, primarily because of the unfamiliar nature of back-in angle parking and the introduction of a bicycle lane, accidents associated with parking spaces declined substantially, reinforcing the inherent safety of back-in angle parking.

This context-sensitive solution demonstrates that back-in angle parking can be effectively integrated into the downtown environment and co-exist along an arterial highway using current, minimum design standards. In addition to creating more parking over traditional parallel parking, back-in angle parking can also be used as a traffic calming/street narrowing tool, can enhance pedestrian functionality and walkability within the downtown area, and can work harmoniously with bicycle lanes, all resulting in a more attractive and intimate downtown corridor, enhancing the downtown experience, and leading to increased economic investment.

John Nawn, P.E., PTOE, is executive vice president of Czop/Specter, Inc. He can be reached at jnawn@czopspecter.com or 610.584.0880.

TPP-2012-05-Backing In

Pedaling Parking

TPP-2012-05-Pedaling ParkingBy Rep. Earl Blumenauer

America is undergoing a bicycle renaissance as more and more people discover—or rediscover—the joys of riding a bike. When I was a child, learning how to ride a bike marked a rite of passage to personal independence; I was able to travel beyond my own yard to visit friends and family on my own, or perhaps meet up at the schoolyard or a nearby park. It was a pure and simple pleasure enjoyed by most children.

As Americans’ transportation and land uses changed after World War II to accommodate the automobile, many of our newer communities were not designed to allow children—or anyone else—to safely ride even short distances. Yet the thrill of riding a bike, using our own power to navigate through our communities, continues even to this day.

People are now discovering that bicycles are not just for recreation, but provide a convenient, healthy, and inexpensive way to get to work, school, appointments, recreation, and even shopping. Not only do bicycles provide good exercise, they help you save money. Last August, the American Automobile Association (AAA) pegged annual operating costs for a sedan at $8,776; for an SUV, the cost was $11,239. In contrast, you can purchase a new, good quality bicycle for between $800 and $1,500, and annual costs for new tires and maintenance average $200. There are real economic benefits to burning calories instead of fossil fuel.

Then there are the demographics of our aging society, with almost 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day. A growing number of Baby Boomers are giving up large-lot, automobile-dependent suburban lifestyles in favor of walkable, convenient neighborhoods that provide easy access to shopping and services without having to get in a car. Bicycles are a perfect fit for these more urbanized communities.

Communities are also realizing the benefits of increased bicycle use. When streets are designed with bicycle facilities such as bike lanes, sharrows (street lane markings), or separated cycle tracks, there’s less congestion, pollution, and speeding. Streets become safer for all roadway users as accident rates decline for those in cars as well as for cyclists and pedestrians.

As Portland, Oregon’s Commissioner of Public Works from 1986-1996, I initiated a bicycle program to provide residents with a greater range of transportation choices. I also suspected that, if done right, investments in bicycle infrastructure along with improved public transit could help revitalize our downtown core and strengthen our neighborhoods. Today, after investing $60 million—about the same price as one mile of a four-lane urban freeway—the City of Portland boasts 324 miles of bikeways, is arguably the nation’s most bicycle friendly city. This modest but comprehensive investment of policies and programs has spurred bicycle use by 400 percent in the past 15 years, outpacing the growth in auto use as well as transit. Today, more than 15 percent of Portlanders use their bicycles for basic transportation needs; in some neighborhoods, that rate is 28 percent.

These impressive figures have helped stretch dollars as well, measurably affecting the city’s transportation budget. From 1991 to 2008, the Hawthorne Bridge, one of the most heavily traveled gateways into the downtown core, had a 20 percent increase in traffic. Ninety-five percent of that increase was in bicycle traffic. The city met the increased demand by simply widening the bike lanes instead of investing millions of dollars to expand the bridge decks and ramps to accommodate more cars into an already-congested downtown.

The increase in bicycle use has proven to be a boom for Portland’s economy. The city currently has 175 bicycle-related businesses that contribute about $100 million to local coffers, taking hold even in these tough economic times. This local growth mirrors larger trends: nationally, bicycles are a $5.8 billion industry, with close to 100,000 people employed in the research and development, distribution, retail sales, service, and tourism sectors.

Where Parking Fits In
As bicycle use has increased, so has the need for bicycle parking. Cyclists, like drivers, need convenient access to secure parking at their destinations. With more than 1.5 million bicycles stolen every year, fear of bicycle theft is a significant deterrent to bicycle use. Yet secure and convenient parking is often overlooked at commercial areas, businesses, schools, and even transit hubs. As cities as diverse as Portland; Chicago; Madison, Wisc.;and Denver experience greater bicycle use, they are developing manuals to guide their planners and engineers in constructing the best parking facilities. Elements to be considered include location, type of rack, number of spaces, short- and long-term parking, open or covered spaces, signage, and costs2. Like any other element of the streetscape, bicycle parking must provide function without interfering with other users of the public space.

Adequate and convenient bicycle parking not only signals the commitment of a business and commercial area to a green economy, but often offers artistic elements to the streetscape and provides a welcome buffer between street traffic and pedestrians enjoying sidewalk tables, shop windows, and conversation with their neighbors.

A dramatic increase in demand for bicycle parking in Portland has kept city engineers on their toes. Businesses in both the downtown core and outer neighborhoods have asked the city to install bike corrals for their customers, replacing two on-street auto parking spaces with 20 to 24 parking spaces for bikes. In fact, bike corrals have proved so popular in Portland that the city has installed—at business owners’ requests—41 bike corrals, and 65 additional requests are currently waiting for funding. When more than 100 small business owners request the replacement of car parking with bike corrals, you know bicycling has become mainstream.

Of course, bicycle parking is needed at schools, institutions, government offices, universities, and transit centers as well. We certainly wouldn’t expect people to drive to any of these destinations if there weren’t parking available; the same is true for bicyclists. The good news is that bicycle parking, whether on racks, in lockers, on the sidewalk or street, or in structured parking garages, costs much less than parking spaces for cars. According to the Bicycling and Walking Information Center, National Center for Walking and Biking, it is significantly cheaper:

Purchase and installation of a bike rack (two bikes): $150-$300
Purchase and installation of a bike locker (two bikes): $1000 – $4000
Construction of a single car parking space:
$2,200 (surface lot), $12,500 (garage)

Certainly, we will continue to rely on automobiles in our cities, suburban communities, and rural areas. Yet as more Americans discover the personal, environmental, and health benefits of using bikes for many of their travel needs, a good supply of secure and convenient bicycle parking will be needed. Planners, engineers, urban designers, and ordinary citizens are already recognizing this need and finding inexpensive, creative, and effective ways to make sure our downtowns and neighborhoods accommodate this most efficient of urban transport choices. They understand that supporting bicycles as a viable transportation option makes our families safer and healthier and increases the livability and economic viability of our communities.

Earl Blumenauer represents Oregon’s third district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached at 202.225.4811.

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An MIT professor rethinks parking lots as the centers of their communities

TPP-2012-05-An MIT professor rethinks parking lots as the centers of their communitiesBy Eran Ben-Joseph, Ph.D.

I had very big shoes to fill in the early 2000s. I was just starting my career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and part of my teaching obligation included a course titled “Site Planning.” This is not just any other course at MIT: it is the oldest, continuously-taught course in the School of Architecture and Planning. Moreover, since its first offering more than 75 years ago, it has been taught by only a handful of instructors, many of whom have turned out to be luminaries of urban design and city planning.

In 1956, a newly-tenured professor named Kevin Lynch took what was seen as a mainstream course in site engineering and turned it into a whole–system approach to planning the built and natural environments. His soon-to-follow book, Site Planning, published in 1962, reflected this unique thinking and is still considered the field’s foremost textbook. The text, notes, and resources from the course’s collections are comprehensive and include topics such as earthwork and grading, utilities and infrastructure layouts, and the design of access and circulation systems.

One of the common topics covered by the course is the allocation, siting, and planning of surface parking lots. Although well-researched, thoroughly explained, and informatively detailed, one element was missing: there were no documented cases of well-designed surface lots. Over the years, many of my students pointed out this deficiency by asking, “Are there any good examples of notable or great parking lots?” I could barely think of one.

To some extent, the book I have written, ReThinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking, is a partial attempt to answer this question. In the spirit of Lynch’s holistic approach to site planning, I have tried to look at parking lots as more than just utilitarian objects. Can parking have beauty and greatness in the less than obvious traits of aesthetics or form? Can the way people use lots—both planned and spontaneous—be a significant determinant of importance? Are surface parking lots just transient, residual way-stations in our built world, or do they hold cultural and historical virtues?

The short answer to all of these questions is yes, yes, and yes.

Despite what some see as their prevailing dullness and mundane design, surface parking lots are a central part of our culture and social way of life. They should not be treated as residual space of our built world, but as an integral part of it. We must embrace the lot’s utilitarian use, acknowledging its appropriateness, while uncovering ingredients for changes. I argue that molding everyday places through simple, generative interventions can transform the way we live and interact with our surroundings. The intent is not to champion the abolition of surface parking lots or advocate the creation of strict codes and standards that dictate their design, but rather to illustrate their ongoing contemporary effects on our life and their great potential for the future.

Lots and Society
While we all recognize that parking lots are an important part of our transportation network, too often, little consideration is given to how they are designed and their effects on the land. Parking lots are a central part of our social and cultural life. They influence the way we drive, the destinations we choose, and the way we behave while looking for a parking space. They can breed both feelings of danger and dependability. They also provide a certain inherent flexibility that stimulates spontaneous (and sometimes planned) public activities such as hosting festivals and markets or events that celebrate the car and sport culture.

The lots’ distinctive spatial and use characteristics offer unique opportunities for their use beyond the temporary storage of cars. Indeed, from organized farmer’s markets to spontaneous games of street hockey, cultural and social public activities in parking lots are a common occurrence. Such a range of activities suggests that parking lots, although not by intention, do form part of the public realm. Parking lots with their intended and unintended usages are a found place. They are the unplanned urban rooms that fill physical and mental gaps in our designed environment; places where counter interactions and social occurrences are happening on a daily basis.

The parking lot is the first—and the last—part of a space one visits or lives next to. It is the gateway through which all dwellers, customers, visitors, or employees pass before they enter a building. Architects and designers often discuss the importance of the approach as setting the tone for a place and as the setting for the architecture itself. Developers talk about the importance of first impression to the overall atmosphere conveyed to the user. Yet, parking lots are rarely, if ever, considered as an integral part of the spatial experience of development. With the prevailing ambivalence toward cars and the refusal to view them as possible design elements, cars and parking lots are often dealt with as a necessary evil.

Resorts are some of the few developments that do place attention on the siting and design of parking lots as part of the overall sequential arrival and departure experience. Sensibly enough, scenic hotels focus on creating memorable experiences in their surroundings that offer beauty, relaxation, and mental transformation. Such places would not consider having their guests enter the premise through a bare, paved parking lot with a shimmering sea of cars.

Most see the parking area as a gateway, an entry by which a first and lasting impression is made. Whether employing ecological design principles or more common development practices, such destinations tend to carefully choose appropriate paving materials and often incorporate existing features such as mature trees. Integrated into the design, such resorts also place emphasis on the sequential movement of both drivers and pedestrians for walking to and from the parking lot, which is just as important as parking one’s car in it.

Enforcing codes and regulations that impose a particular design solution may not always be the best way to achieve desirable results. An alternative is to incentivize and promote change through encouraging voluntary initiatives rather than through rules. Parking lots provide a blank canvas that can accommodate many changes and uses within the built environment. We must not forget this aspect of these unique spaces, or all parking lots will look and function alike and be deprived of their potential ability to be spontaneously changed. Public officials, developers, and operators of parking lots should realize that mixing uses could be profitable. For example, allowing food trucks into a parking lot to create “lunch in the square” generates revenue to those vendors, the city through permitting fees, and other local businesses (non-competing) through increased foot traffic caused by the event.

Developers can also realize that parking lots are just as important to their development image and attractiveness as are glamorous lobbies or fancy facades.

Developers of condominiums do not shy away from adding exercise and recreation facilities to lure people into buying their units. Most understand that investment in common spaces can have positive economic outcomes. The developer, as one of the sole deciders of how a city is ultimately shaped, needs to believe that improving the parking facilities can be beneficial to both buyers and lessees of their buildings as well as to the long-term viability of the surrounding area.

In Los Angeles, the Mexican-American community’s reverence and affection for Our Lady of Guadalupe (also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe) is expressed through hundreds of community icons, murals, and makeshift shrines. Few such improvised sanctuaries reside within parking lots, however.

When redesigning the old Fiat’s Lingotto factory in Turin, Italy architect Renzo Piano was faced with the challenge of integrating the massive building into its surroundings. His solution was to turn the paved surfaces around the factory into parking lot gardens. By eliminating all regular parking islands and curbs and planting rows of trees in a dense grid, Piano created a checker box of tree trunks guiding parked cars and pedestrians all under a soft canopy of foliage.

Molding everyday places such as the surface parking lots though simple, generative interventions can transform the way we live and interact with our surroundings. Our intent should neither be to champion the abolition of the surface parking lot nor to advocate for the creation of strict codes that dictate their design, but rather to recognize that parking lots could be some of our great public spaces.

Eran Ben-Joseph, Ph.D. is professor of landscape architecture and urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His book, ReThinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking, is published by the MIT Press and available through IPI’s Amazon.com store: www.parking.org/shop-ipi/ipi-on-amazoncom.aspx. He can be reached at ebj@mit.edu.

TPP-2012-05-An MIT professor rethinks parking lots as the centers of their communities

The Information You Need

TPP-2012-05-The Information You NeedBy Brad Johnson, CPA, MS

In an intermediate accounting class I taught in the 1980s, we began the semester with a Real World Accounting lecture. My point was that when you get tired or lazy with a homework problem, you surrender because you know you will get the answer in class. But in the real world, there is no answer book.

I thought of that lecture when people who use a certain brand of software asked me what reports they should be running. Like my former students, they wanted an answer.

I probably suggested, “It depends;” the vendor says it has hundreds of preprogrammed reports.

Since then, I have changed my mind. “Which reports?” is the wrong question. Instead, ask:
What do I want to know?
In what format do I want the information?
How will my company and I use that knowledge?

Whatever vendor you use, you probably do not have operational reports that help you with the above questions. I know that because after a $200,000 software and equipment upgrade and more than a year of effort, we have given up on our vendor’s ability to supply us with the reports we need. The vendor says for thousands of dollars, a custom report could be created for us. We are unconvinced.

For about $500, a colleague found a vendor who used Excel and exported our data to produce the reports we wanted in less than five minutes. You should know that he arrived at our company with no parking experience, and in two years, achieved lower payroll, transitioned us from all-cash facilities to credit and debit only, saw significant revenue increases, and restructured, organized, and documented our operations.

He built on his prior work experiences, which were not in parking. He used many of the basic financial management tools you likely posses, and he was willing to take a risk on change. He went back to basics and his skill set and improvised.
When you don’t know what to do in a specific situation, think about the skills you have and how they can provide insight and direction for the situation. My co-worker found his solution by shifting his thinking from, “What can our vendor provide,” to “What information do I need and who can provide it?”

When you have decided what you want to know but don’t know how to get it, go outside your customary sphere of contact. Get on the telephone and have a conversation with someone new. Accountants tend to fall in love with familiar contacts, just as poker players love a good hand even when the player knows the hand is beaten.

Meet with the consumers of your monthly reports. Ask what they want to know. Draft a format of the report during the meeting to clarify specifics. Find someone to help get the project moving to conclusion; turn to Facebook or Twitter. Complete a sample draft using a prior month’s information. Create an app, get in the cloud, or do whatever is appropriate for your situation.

Brad Johnson, CPA, MS, is the accountant for Urban Parking Management. He can be reached at bradcpa@cox.net or 401.301.5095.

TPP-2012-05-The Information You Need

The People Factor

TPP-2012-05-The People FactorBy Bridgette Brady, CAPP

Becoming a sustainable organization means creating a new approach to supporting the organization’s mission and achieving its goals. Truly sustainable organizations take a holistic approach by deeply embedding the principles of the triple bottom line—environment, economic, and social—into their business practices. This creates a dynamic sustainable business system that must be understood and embraced by staff and led by visible support from senior management.

In many organizations, the environmental and economic practices of sustainability receive most of the attention. The effects of these practices are still far easier to measure than those of social responsibility. Metrics for reducing a carbon footprint or forecasting return on investment for sustainable practices provide for some measurable evaluation. Even when the social principle is addressed, practices surround engagement with external stakeholders. It is not as common to witness engagement of internal stakeholders—our human resources.

It is not enough for an organization’s top tier leadership to embrace the principles of sustainability. Effective management includes aligning all employment practices with the organization’s sustainability goals and fostering a focused culture of learning.

Alignment of Employment Practices
One difficulty is that organizations have tasked and rewarded employees with mostly short-term profit goals, which makes understanding the financial benefits of environmental and social responsibility difficult. Cultural transformation should start with human resource management processes:

Recruitment. Messaging the importance and commitment to sustainability during external and internal recruiting will result in a better fit between the message and specific applicant groups. It may also dissuade applicants who aren’t interested in those work attributes.

Selection. A structured job-related method of assessment should be used for selection. Numerically evaluating responses and using detailed rating scales will provide opportunities to weigh responses.

Retention. Job descriptions should clearly define expectations and goals for sustainable practices. This may require review and edit of existing job descriptions, which is a time-consuming but important task. Most effective retention initiatives involve enrichment and incentive programs. When possible, offer career development opportunities in sustainable practices and provide merit salary increases or recognition for meeting sustainable goals.

Fostering a Learning Culture
Sustainability is an emerging way of doing business. Colleges have started offering courses and entire programs devoted to sustainable business practices in response to growing demand. Some are offering MBA programs that focus on sustainability.

Several training and enrichment opportunities exist that do not require the substantial time or monetary resources of higher education. These opportunities include:

Participation in industry certification that includes sustainability content, such as the Certified Administrator of Public Parking (CAPP) program.
Participation in focused sustainability education tracks at conferences, such as those offered at the IPI Conference & Expo. (www.parking.org/conference)

Including the IPI Sustainability Framwork in your business. (www.parking.org/knowledge-center/sustainability.aspx)

Participation with trade associations that focus on sustainable initiatives such as the Green Parking Council, the United States Green Building Council, Green Globes, and others.

Participation in training programs that are transportation demand management (TDM) centric.

Taking advantage of webinars and e-learning opportunities on topics related to sustainability.

The journey to a truly sustainable organization requires pioneering new ways of thinking and operating that meet employee and customer needs while protecting and restoring the earth’s natural systems and achieving economic balance. An organization and its people must understand and accept that only a holistic integration of sustainable practices and a complete organizational commitment to this set of goals will make this happen.

Bridgette Brady, CAPP, is director of parking, transportation, and visitor center at Washington State University, and a member of IPI’s Sustainability Committee. She can be reached at b.brady@wsu.edu or 509.335.5105.

TPP-2012-05-The People Factor