By: Bob Browand
The current theme surrounding UH Parking and Transportation is change and progress.
Lately we’ve spent a lot of time detailing the new rates, zone parking, new permit registration process and more coming to Parking and Transportation in the 2018-2019 academic year. This seemed like an appropriate time to look back at some of the other program developments we’ve gone through in the past several years and share the progress these have made.
From lowering permit oversell to launching an entire alternative transportation program, we’ve worked hard to constantly improve our services and we’re excited to share some of the successes we’ve had through that journey.
Energy Research Park is part of the University of Houston and is located right across Spur 5. It’s a 70-acre complex that has over 2,300 parking spaces. In recent years, the number of faculty, staff and students on campus continued to grow rapidly while we saw the parking spaces at ERP sitting empty.
In the 2016-2017 academic year we moved economy parking to ERP to take advantage of this open space and increase campus parking opportunities.
This has allowed us to maintain an affordable permit option for faculty, staff and students of only $185 a year, which is just over $15 a month.
We increased shuttle service between ERP and the central campus locations so that now at any given time up to eight shuttles are servicing ERP alone, meaning a shuttle comes by, on average, every twelve minutes. We know it isn’t enough to simply offer those looking for an affordable and stress-free permit an option, we wanted to make sure it is a great option.
The permit oversell rate in the student lots has been lowered the last several years, and many students have noticed. In the past, the student permit ran close to a 2.0 oversell, meaning two permits were sold for every space.
To improve the student lot parking experience, we began actively lowering our oversell rates and currently we’re averaging between 1.5 and 1.6 in student lots. This actually puts us on the low end of industry best practices, which is recommended to be between 1.6 and 1.8 in student lots.
Eliminating Parking Down
In the past, faculty and staff were able to park in student lots when they had trouble finding a space, which caused frustration for both sides. Faculty and staff were having to drive around to find open spaces and students weren’t happy that other permits were allowed in student lots.
In the 2017-2018 academic year we transitioned two student lots to faculty/staff ungated lots to give faculty and staff enough room for parking and removed the parking down option. This created more balance between the two groups and not only sorted out the frustrations but has also been helpful from a data standpoint. When we know exactly which permit types are being used in each lot, we’re able to better understand how lots are being used and when. Therefore we’re able to better manage the oversell rate for those areas and adapt as needed.
Expanding Shuttle Services (North/South connector)
With nearly one million passengers a year, our Cougar Line Shuttles are a vital service we provide to campus.
In January 2018 we added a new campus shuttle route, the North/South Connector, to offer a convenient way to travel across campus.
This route has stops on the north side of campus near the Law, Engineering, Architecture and Art buildings and the south side of campus next to parking lots 8A, 9B and 9C.
A version of the North/South Connector will be in place next year and all shuttle routes will be evaluated for the 2018-2019 academic year to work well with the new zone parking program for student lots.
Creating COAST (Coogs On Alternative And Sustainable Transportation)
In an effort to minimize the number of vehicles traveling to and parking on campus, while also doing our part to reduce Houston’s carbon footprint by relieving traffic congestion, we created an alternative transportation program.
Through COAST, we offer incentives to faculty, staff and students who carpool to campus or ride METRO.
This program had early success and has only continued to grow. With almost 3,000 current members, we have already reduced parking space demand enough to offset the need for one future garage! As the number of people of campus grow, we encourage everyone to take a look at how joining this program can save them time, money and stress.
More information can be found on our website at uh.edu/COAST. We’re currently accepting registrations, so those interested should fill out the COAST Information Request Form or stop by the COAST office in the Stadium Garage next to Taco Cabana.