We hear it.
"When will Western fix the parking issue?" Or "Yup, there's another example of the problem with parking at Western."
We hear it, but it's often a generalization that isn't unique to Western. Whether warranted or not, parking around the World is the target of these sorts of comments / questions all the time.
A study posted by the Daily Mail (UK) reported that paying for parking tops the list of most hated consumer fees. Parking is followed closely by debit and credit card surcharges, paying to use a public toilet, and cellular roaming fees. It even irks people more than ATM withdrawal charges.*
In most cited cases, rates being too high was the number one complaint. Many adding that parking should be free. And free would certainly be ideal, even here at Western. However, parking lots and infrastructure come with costs. At Western these costs are largely funded by permit sales.
Parking operations has a small, but hard working full-time staff, a handful of student enforcement officers, and a half dozen contracted booth attendants. The department also purchases and maintains emergency 'blue' phones, lights and standards, civil work (concrete, paving, line painting), gate hardware/software, and snow removal.
Those choosing to park on campus are not just paying for a space, they are paying for these services and associated maintenance, as well.
"There are no spots on campus"
Besides rates, another common concern is lot capacity. Very rarely is campus exceeding capacity. During sporting events or fall convocation, parking is a challenge, but typically there are still spots for permit holders.
In some cases, a popular lot may fill, giving the perception that parking across campus is also overflowing. Using our new parking system, with real time capacity data, it has been observed that while Springett Student and Chemistry Staff/Faculty lots fill early, there are several other lots available for these permit holders.
In the future, parking hopes to share this real-time data with customers, who may be able to seek under capacity lots using a mobile app prior to coming to campus. This feature continues to be a goal for the second phase of the modernized system and should improve the balanced use of lots.
In contrast, at Fanshawe College, parking is at capacity. Thus, permits are not issued to students living within the city. Furthermore, out-of-towners who are eligible are subject to a lottery. At Queen's University, supply is also overwhelmed by demand, leading to a waitlist for permits that is reported to be more than a year or two long.
"The new parking gates don't work and open slowly"
|Adding new gate hardware at Weldon lot|
There have been some hiccups with gates not recognizing certain hang tags. In other cases, the growing pains have been a result of old user habits that don't jive the with new system. For example, with the old system, customers could use a permit and then pass it back to the vehicle behind them to also enter a lot at the same time. Though this practice has always been a violation of the permit holder agreement, the old system wasn't designed to restrict the secondary or 'pass-back' entrance. The new gates is and the arm won't open if a permit is already in use on campus.
Admittedly, the gates are not as quick to respond to an approaching vehicle when compared to the previous system. The extra second or two is related to a permit check that the system performs to ensure that the permit is valid and that it isn't already in use in another lot.
Benefits of parking on campus
Though not the only way, driving a vehicle is a convenience for commuters coming to campus. In many ways, the new system has provided an enhanced experience for those arriving on campus in a vehicle. For example, the addition of using a Western ONECard as a secondary access credential and a live intercom at every pedestal are welcome benefits of the modernization project. Visit our website for more information on the new system; http://www.uwo.ca/parking/modernization/index.html
Some of the lesser known services and features offered by Parking & Visitor Services include;
- Provide parking for special events and coordinate loading and drop off areas
- Provide shuttles for families/friends during convocation
- Provide bike lockers for rent and bike racks for free use
- Provide select bus shelters
- Provide roadside assistance for disabled vehicles on campus
- Provide carpooling options
Parking isn't perfect
It's true. Very few organizations can claim to be so. However, the efforts to improve and enhance the customer experience are often overshadowed and underappreciated by the fact that most people don't like to pay for parking. This sentiment often spills over into the generalizations mentioned at the top of this blog. There is no over arching 'problem' with parking at Western. Truth be told, there is a genuine effort to make parking as easy and accessible as possible for customers.