Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
The parking privatization on Ohio State’s campus has been described as smooth by some university officials, however the first academic year under the transition hasn’t gone off without a hitch.
A deteriorating garage, slower garage entering and exiting, the possibility of higher parking rates and complaints from drivers have plagued CampusParc, which handles the day-to-day operations of university parking.
The transition is the result of the Board of Trustees’ decision to lease OSU’s parking operations to QIC Global Infrastructure last June for a 50-year contract. The $483 million deal with the Australia-based investment company gave it control over operations of campus parking garages, lots and permit sales. CampusParc began managing the day-to-day parking systems in September, and many updates on technology and infrastructure have been planned and carried out since then.
But some at CampusParc feel the campus community misunderstands what responsibilities are within their control.
Since OSU is the first public university to privitize its parking operations, the concept is not well-known, said Sarah Blouch, president of CampusParc.
“CampusParc is often blamed for things we cannot change without OSU’s approval, or for things that were actually prescribed in the concession agreement, such as parking rates, who can purchase specific permits and who can and cannot park in specific places,” Blouch said.
Although the parking transition received backlash from some members of the OSU community, the university and CampusParc have been working to address voiced concerns.
“There have certainly been some unexpected issues, such as gate equipment in a greater state of disrepair than originally planned-it is reaching the end of its useful life- and wait times on the phone during the fall longer than we would like,” Blouch said in an email. “We are aware of the problems, and I think our staff have been very proactive addressing concerns and implementing solutions.”
CampusParc and university leadership said despite all the changes and some issues that have occurred since the transition, many are happy with the results that have been seen.
“There are always going to be kinks, but overall in terms of satisfaction levels- and we’ve been doing some surveys on that-and in terms of their effectiveness and efficiency, they seem to be doing very, very well,” said President E. Gordon Gee in a March 25 interview with The Lantern editorial staff.
In March it was announced that students living in OSU’s student family housing Buckeye Village, located across the Olentangy River on Defiance Drive near Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, would have to pay for their previously free parking spaces at a cost of $620.25 per year starting on July 31, when university parking passes are scheduled to expire before renewed passes become active on Aug. 1. But residents complained about the change and a few days later received an email from OSU Housing stating: “The university is working through the details; however, residents can be assured that, at this time, there will be no changes to the parking fees and assignment of parking spaces at Buckeye Village.”
Lindsay Komlanc, spokeswoman for OSU Administration and Planning, said transitions come with their own set of issues to be addressed.
“While much of the transition was seamless, change can be challenging,” Komlanc said in an email. “The university understands that a new way of operating requires the need for additional planning and significant thought regarding each decision. During this transition period, we appreciate that the university community has kept an open mind and been willing to provide helpful feedback, and at times, for demonstrating patience during the transition.”
“Pay on Foot” machines were installed in a number of campus garages to allow drivers to pay on the way to their cars and then leave the garages more quickly. Issues with traffic routes are also being addressed in a number of garages to make driving safer and more efficient when entering and exiting.
“New technology, such as ‘Pay on Foot’ machines, which make exiting garages quicker and more efficient, is already in place in the 12th Avenue Garage, South Cannon Garage, Safe Auto Hospital Garage, the South Union Garage and will be rolled out across other campus locations over the next year,” Komlanc said. “CampusParc is also working on several traffic-density related issues associated with some of our garages, including the Tuttle Garage.”
CampusParc is also developing two mobile applications that will help visitors locate parking spaces and pay for parking on their cellphones at OSU.
One app will allow people on campus to find an available parking spot. The app is in development and should be available by fall, Blouch said. The second app will allow customers to pay for parking on their cellphones, eliminating the need for visitors to purchase a temporary permit or wait in line to pay when exiting a garage. This app is set to become available this summer.
CampusParc is also working on plans for other updates to infrastructure and technology.
“New lighting will be installed in area garages to enhance safety and visibility and use much less energy, and we are working on making the permit renewal process simpler with enhanced online capability and a permit-less system for those who do not want to hang a parking pass from their rear-view mirror(s),” Blouch said. “This eliminates a trip to Bevis Hall to get a permit and provides less waste in the landfill each year.”
One unexpected problem that arose for CampusParc was a hole in the upper floors of the South Cannon Garage in February that forced about 100 parking spots to be out of service. Due to the holes, the garage will go through a restoration beginning in July.
“This garage was built in 1973, and while the most recent restoration was done in 2003, they generally need major work every 10 years,” Blouch said. “So it’s time to do a new restoration.
“We inspect garages regularly for this type of wear, however this particular hole formed under the protective membrane on the deck and was not visible until it opened up.”
The South Cannon Garage was also converted to a patient- and visitor-parking-only facility recently to parallel with the opening of the new Patient Care Tower next year.
“The University requested that we change South Cannon from mixed use with staff and patient to just patient parking in March,” Blouch said. “The new Patient Care Tower will open in April 2014, and the garage repairs are being aligned with this opening to provide adequate patient parking.”
It is also CampusParc’s responsibility to take care of the landscaping surrounding the campus parking operations, however Facilities Operations and Development has offered its services in exchange for a fee.
“Facilities Operations and Development’s Landscape Services team has offered to provide the necessary services to maintain these areas for a fee that CampusParc would pay to the university,” Komlanc said. “CampusParc is currently reviewing this information. At this time there is no agreement between CampusParc and the University for these services though.”