Color coded parking system sees similar results, shuttle rider increase

Feb. 23, 2015

Eleanor Skelton
[email protected]

Campus parking implemented a new color coded permit and lot system last fall. The new system charges more for parking in closer lots, separated faculty and student parking and kept Four Diamonds parking free.

“I haven’t had any complaints at all about people being confused as to where to park,” said Jim Spice, executive director of Parking and Transportation.

William Whitfield, parking manager, reported that the number of tickets issued this year is comparable to last year. Through Feb. 10, 2014, 4,744 tickets were issued. This past year, through Feb. 10, 4,955 were issued.

Parking made one change to the color code system this semester. Yellow permits are now allowed to park in the visitor section of Alpine Garage, allowing those permit holders closer access to campus.

“Originally, we weren’t allowing that because we weren’t sure that we’d have enough capacity,” Spice said. “But it’s worked out well; we haven’t had that many visitors.”

Due to the Rec Center expansion, parking asked the Rec Center front desk to tell visitors that yellow permits were now valid in the visitor section of the garage. That section will be added to the permit next year.

Parking sold a similar number of permits in both years. From fall 2014 through Feb. 10, 2014, under the old system, 3,033 permits were sold. This year, through Feb. 10, 3,571 permits were sold, according to Whitfield.

Spice indicated that parking sold the same number of yellow permits last year and this year. His calculations did not include the green permits, added due to Alpine Garage.

Spice said parking currently sells 2 to 2.1 permits per space, a larger ratio than last year due to added parking availability.

“We’re four weeks into the semester, and we still haven’t waitlisted [for any permit].”

Construction changes at Four Diamonds

Spice said he is hopeful construction for the VAPA building and expansion of parking at Four Diamonds will enable the shuttle buses to have new routes that avoid Austin Bluffs entirely.

Colorado Springs Metro plans to add a stop at the VAPA building in addition to their stop outside Centennial Hall on the main campus.

“What I’d like to do eventually long term is have an internal road system,” Spice said.

Roads are usually financed through the state’s general fund, but Spice does not know when that could happen.

“Who knows when that’s going to happen, it’s a funding issue. Who is going to fund a road?” he said.

Traffic on the internal road would be limited to emergency and transportation vehicles to ensure efficient shuttle service, but accompanied by a pedestrian sidewalk and a bike lane.

“We’re slowly working on those pieces to make that a reality sometime in the future, because it is in the master plan.”

Spice said the shuttles have seen increased use, probably due to parking restrictions in the surrounding neighborhoods.

The shuttle system carried 400,711 passengers in the 2012-2013 fiscal year and 611,503 passengers in the 2013-2014 fiscal year, almost a 53 percent increase.

Spice projects 630,000 riders for the 2014-2015 fiscal year and 650,000 for fiscal year 2015-2016 “with all factors currently the same and a slight increase in enrollment.”

He believes that the increased shuttle numbers could also be due to the new orange lot by the green lot by the greenhouse, which is serviced by the University Hall route. The most cars Spice has seen in that lot is about half of the 225 car capacity.

Parking has counted around 400 open spaces at the busiest time in the Alpine Garage.

“That’s probably not going to continue, as soon as the new housing village is built,” Spice said. “Eventually … we won’t be able to sell commuter students permits anymore, because it will be full of housing students, minus the visitor portion.”

Half of the new housing village opens this August, and the VAPA building completion date is 2017.

Technology and parking

Spice and the parking department are partnering with a student group from the Bachelor of Innovation program to track the number of open spaces in various lots.

“They’re starting an actual student club, and they’re calling themselves Lot Spot,” Spice explained. “They’re actually implementing a car counting system so that as a car pulls into level four or level five, it takes away the available spaces, and as they leave, it adds.”

The number of available spaces will be posted on a Twitter feed that refreshes every five seconds.

“This is a test pilot that parking is funding, at least the first phase of the project. They’re going for funding from the Green Action Fund for the second phase,” Spice said.

The second phase would involve a smart camera system installed on light poles in a triangulation method. The smart cameras would be equipped to detect open spaces. This information would also post to the live Twitter feed.

The shuttle bus app has been discontinued after parking conducted a survey at the end of last year.

“Only 35 riders out of 850 said they were a regular user of the app, and the price tripled,” Spice explained. “It was very labor-intensive for dispatch.”

The complexity of updating the app was compounded by multiple routes covered by three or four different buses per day. Although the software relied on GPS tracking, dispatch had to manually program which bus was on which route and which buses were currently in service.

“We decided if we were going to keep that system, we were going to have to make it bus driver controlled,” Spice explained.

That would have meant installing a screen in each bus and an air card with a $55 monthly subscription.

“It just became financially not feasible, plus we just didn’t have a lot of interest,” Spice said. “It was kind of a neat thing to have [but] the feedback we got from the surveys was you can set your watch to the buses, and they’re every five to 10 minutes, so just wait a couple of minutes and another bus is going to come along.”