Virginia Tech Parking Needs to be More 'Smart'

My first parking ticket is vividly stamped into my mind, probably because it was only two weeks ago. Classes were creeping slowly upon us, but I was too preoccupied by the 40-hour work week that lay ahead. I usually park in the Squires Lot 10 minutes before 5 p.m., never thinking about the consequences of my actions. On this cursed day, I parked in Squires Lot at 3:50 p.m., thinking they wouldn’t single me out and ticket me on such a fine Wednesday afternoon. Lucky for me, I was completely wrong, and Virginia Tech Parking Services showed no mercy, giving me a ticket, followed by a second one less than 24 hours later.

Ever wish that there was a magical idea developing a resolution for parking with the technology you hold in the palm of your hand? The development of smart parking technology apps like ParqEx and CloudParc not only eliminates the pain of parking, but also decreases parking citations and driver stress. ParqExsolves the main headache of most urban drivers: finding a vacant spot. With access to private spots only found on the app, drivers can look for available parking in any area and reserve that spot. Have a private parking spot close to downtown? You can also list your personal parking spot for supplemental income.

According to David Lieb of Walker Parking Consultants, “Typically universities have more parking availability than they think — they just are not using it effectively.” With 16,400 parking spots available at Tech for 106,000 students, faculty and visitors year round, more efficient parking would use the spaces we have currently, eliminating expansion. Limited parking is not only something that affects drivers and their stress levels, but also contributes to the negative stereotype of parking enforcement, depicting them as the “bad guys”.

“If students knew that these apps and incentives existed, we would have one less thing to worry about.”

Eliminating parking tickets would not solve the problem; it would make the search for parking a never-ending game of hide-and-go-seek that would result in more cars, tears, pollution and stress. However, creating and utilizing smarter parking, parking that incorporates with incentives with information technology, can lower the number of parking tickets, but also aid in maneuvering through campus for that last spot.

Instead of paying and reserving a meter online, some apps like CloudParc eliminate the need for parking meters altogether. Cameras and sensors on light poles are linked to the app and alert drivers when the space is free. The automatic billing, based off the time spent in that spot, lowers ticket infractions issued and helps eliminate air pollution emitted from driving and searching for a spot. Especially on campus, the implementation of these apps, or new VT apps, would help you find those straggler Lane spots or stalk Squires at 8 a.m.

Emphasizing other options aside from parking on campus will increase the number of available spots and decrease traffic and air pollution. Campuses all across the country are beginning to stray away from building more on-campus parking and incentivizing ways to have students commute in other ways. Santa Clara University decided to shut down roads and parking lots, reinventing them as “pedestrian malls” that served as a hub for students. From there, they could walk, ride a bike, or take the self-driving Auro Robotics shuttle to campus. Such a large change reduced the flow of congestion and pollution on campus, and increased the incentive to drive, walk or carpool.

The University of Arizona added bike stations and bike valets throughout its campus to accommodate the increase in biking that it was pushing to create, which is being implemented in Blacksburg with the “bike share” program. Rutgers University in New Jerseydecided to stagger class 20 minutes apart in order to reduce traffic peaks and allow more time to commute from class to class. Even though the BT Transit is a blessing in itself, adding more bike stations, zipcars and “less” parking could result in increased parking efficiency and driver morale.

Parking tickets will never go away, and I will never get that $75 from parking tickets back. However, parking should not be a worry when driving around campus at 7:55 a.m. — it should be that 8 a.m. calculus class.

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