Campus Parking Trends

Parking can be a headache for colleges and universities. It’s not always easy to provide convenient parking to potentially thousands of students, faculty, staff, and visitors day after day. However, in recent years, a number of new technologies have been introduced to make parking more user-friendly and manageable, and campuses have benefited greatly from these advances.


Photo credit shablovskyistock

When it comes to parking technology and campus parking, the name of the game is convenience. Recent advances to access and revenue control equipment, parking guidance, license plate recognition, and mobile payment have been game-changers for colleges and universities.

Technology Trends

According to David Lieb, national director of Higher Ed Mobility Planning for Walker Consultants, colleges and universities are turning to technology to make parking more virtual and less frustrating.

“Many are installing technologies that make the license plate the parking credential,” says Lieb. “For instance, colleges are installing license plate recognition (LPR) technology at entrances and exits. LPR cameras can be attached to access gate systems or stand alone, and when drivers enter the parking facility, the system recognizes the plate and associates it with the appropriate permit.”

Virtual systems like this eliminate the need for hang tags, which can save an institution thousands of dollars that would otherwise go to purchasing those credentials, and replacing them when, inevitably, they get lost. Vehicle-mounted LPR cameras can be used for more efficient enforcement, allowing campuses to do a better job protecting spaces for those who have properly paid. LPR costs have come down significantly in recent years, which has made the technology more attractive.

Parking guidance is another popular parking technology on campuses across the U.S. Guidance systems utilize sensors that monitor whether parking spaces are available or occupied and transmit that information to LED signs located at parking facility entrances and on aisles. The signs let drivers know exactly how many spaces are available in a facility as well as on individual floors, and that information is transmitted in real time.

“Colleges and universities love parking guidance technology because it makes parking more efficient to find, so students and teachers aren’t late for their classes,” says David Waal, executive vice president of Parking Sense. “One California university that installed parking guidance found that the time required to find a parking space quickly dropped from a half hour to five minutes.”

According to Waal, one of the most exciting recent parking guidance advances has been the development of mobile apps that can tell drivers where they can find parking and how to get to those parking facilities. The apps are connected to the campus parking guidance system and receive constant utilization data, so drivers can find out where parking is available at that particular moment.

“This is a terrific feature because it makes parking on campus much more convenient,” says Waal. “It also significantly reduces congestion on campus roadways because people aren’t driving aimlessly searching for parking. Campus transportation managers love it because they aren’t getting dozens of calls a day asking for help.”

Parking software has also come a long way in recent years and, according to Gorm Tuxen, president of IPsens, the most exciting advancement has been the introduction of open IP parking systems. With open IP, universities are able to customize their software to meet their own individual needs. And as campus parking needs evolve, or as the parking technology suite grows, the software can be adjusted as necessary.

“There are a lot of different front-end solutions, including sensors, access and guidance systems, and LPR,” says Tuxen. “It’s important for campuses to utilize parking software that can be integrated dynamically to the back-end system to bring everything together and let all of the different technologies share data with each other. You don’t want to be locked into a data management system that’s linked to a particular hardware system.”

David Lieb agrees that data is an important consideration and that many colleges and universities don’t have a firm grasp of what their data can tell them.


Photo courtesy of Red LPR

“Campus parking organizations have much more data than they often realize, or know how to use,” says Lieb. “Parking technology is constantly collecting information about how many people are parking every day, when parking facilities are busiest, and which facilities are busiest. At the same time, bike-sharing and ride-sharing programs are collecting user data, as are campus transit systems.

“Colleges and universities need to have systems and skilled personnel in place to collect and analyze that data,” continues Lieb. “When they do, they will find that they have a lot of valuable information that can help them determine how they can run their parking more efficiently, whether it’s time to develop additional parking, and whether other demand management strategies could be beneficial.”


Photo courtesy of IPsens

Curb management is becoming a much more prevalent issue because campuses often have many curb spaces and they need effective curb management strategies.

Curb Management

Another important parking trend for colleges and universities is that curb management is becoming a much more prevalent issue. That’s because people traveling to and from colleges and universities aren’t just arriving in cars. In a campus setting people are also relying on bicycles and bike-share services, ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, scooters, public transit and, of course, campus-sponsored shuttle services.

“Campuses may have a lot of curb space, and we are seeing a lot more interest in curb management strategies,” says Lieb. “The intensity of demand is much higher in a campus environment, and it’s imperative for colleges and universities to create strategies that allow for all of these different modes of transportation to be able to share the same curbs.”

Roamy Valera, CEO US and Canada for PayByPhone, agrees that curb management is essential for colleges and universities, and he says that technology can play a vital role. Mobile technology, in particular, can help.

“A vital element of curb management is convenience,” says Valera. “The more convenient it is for drivers to access parking, the more likely drivers are to follow the rules. And when it comes to convenience, connectivity is key.”

That’s where mobile payment apps come in, according to Valera. In addition to allowing drivers to conveniently pay for parking, mobile payment apps can also be used to manage permit parking. The apps can also help with enforcement by letting drivers know when their parking sessions are over and, if they don’t move their vehicles, alerting enforcement officers. By managing parking behaviors, the apps help with curb management by assuring that curbside areas are kept clear for other modes of transportation.

David Lieb adds that good curb management strategies become more important as a campus works to reduce the demands placed by single-occupancy commuter vehicles, and people shift to other modes—and employ different first- and last-mile solutions. Additionally, any new or improved programs—such as carpool, vanpool, and transit incentives—should be accompanied by support services such as guaranteed ride home programs.

“You don’t want students and staff to feel trapped just because they don’t have their own cars on campus,” says Lieb.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of Spaces4Learning.