How to Answer Your Parking Operation's Most Burning Question

Feb 15, 2018 bySheryl Boyd, Assistant Director of Parking and Transportation Services at Chapman University
I would wager money that every parking professional has at one time or another been asked for data that your current system was not capturing.  That is where I often found myself, at the wrong end of the question “Who was parking Where, When?”  A simple question that given our current management system, did not have a simple answer.  We could answer the question on how many vehicles were parked in one of our three commuter garages with count systems but not what the subclass mix of vehicles was, such as how many of those vehicles belonged to faculty, how many to adjunct faculty, staff, freshman students, etc.  Nor did we have any occupancy data from the other eight parking locations without count systems.  Obtaining this data took manual counts, at peak times of the day, of the different permits visible in each parking location.  Then this data had to be put into an Excel Document to create a graph or chart.  This is not something that can be done within 15 minutes of a phone call, which was the typical amount  of time I had to generate a response.

Chapman University occupancy signageRecently, when Chapman University found itself forced into a situation where we had to replace our current system, the opportunity came to find a system that would once and for all answer THE question “Who was parking Where, When.”  I thought this would be a simple search and that this information was something every institution with a Parking Management System either wanted to know or had the capability to know if asked. Not so, as it turns out. 

In my quest for a new system, I talked to numerous vendors at every parking conference and trade show I attended and reviewed many good systems.  But no system was capturing information in a way that would allow this type of standard report.  How do you best allocate parking without a good understanding of where your constituents are parking?  And how do you determine when it’s time to add more parking without good occupancy data?  You will always have complaints about there not being enough parking.  But how do you substantiate those complaints without good data?  Parking is expensive both to build and to maintain so good data can help lead to better decisions.

Enter Jim Leida stage right, NuPark’s VP of Sales.  He came to my office armed with reports created from data being captured in NuPark, to demo NuPark’s Occupancy Module. These reports showed Who was parking Where, When.  Once I was able to bring myself down off the ceiling from excitement at finding a solution to answer THE question, he proceeded to tell me this report could be scheduled to run automatically at specific times of the day and e-mailed directly to Administration.  At that point, I had to be picked up off the floor.  

While my initial quest was for a system specializing in occupancy data, what we ended up with was a system that not only answers the Who, Where, When question, but has opened up a myriad of new possibilities for managing parking here at Chapman University.  Chapman University had never had a complete Parking Management System and my initial search was basically for just the occupancy module.  But what I found in NuPark was much more than a data analytics tool for occupancy data; I found an affordable system that streamlines our operation, improves employee working conditions, expands customer service offerings and adds another layer of security in our parking facilities.  We are nearly complete with the implementation stage of our partnership with NuPark and I am excited to know we have much more functionality at our fingertips to respond to inquiries from all of our stakeholders.

So when looking for a new parking management system, either as a replacement system for a current one or an off-the-shelf solution, find a system that answers your most burning question but also has the potential to answers questions you may be posed in the future.  Good data is king and the parking professional who can provide that data, is invaluable!

Further Reading

Chapman parking enforcement vehicle in front of university sign
white truck scanning license plates in a surface parking lot
man in white shirt and black pants speaking to two ladies in white and orange clothes with men in the background talking with NuPark sign in the. back