As the Interim Director of Transportation & Parking Services at the University of California, Riverside, Greg Artman understands that there are some people who will always complain about parking on campus. But that hasn’t stopped him and his team from working hard to change the organization’s image and create a more positive experience for both departmental clients and visitors to campus.
“In the fall of 2012, then-Chancellor Timothy P. White told us that one of the complaints that he often heard regarding Transportation & Parking Services (TAPS) was that we were not welcoming toward visitors, in part because of the mandatory $5 permit fee that was applied to all campus event attendees over and above the other event costs,” said Artman, who was named interim director on July 1, 2012. “This created a general perception that visitors were unwelcome on the campus in general.”
White challenged Artman’s organization to become more customer-friendly, both to departments on campus and visitors to campus. One of their first tasks was to address the challenges with event parking.
“We took a close look at our resource utilization and made changes on re-allocating our labor and supply expenses,” he said. “In doing so, we were able to reduce our events costs by roughly 30%.”
From there, they developed a pricing structure that covers the direct and indirect salaries of employees, the cost of producing signage and the spaces in the lots themselves. This pricing structure provides the hosting department with the choice whether to finance the cost themselves, pass the cost on to attendees at a preset rate, or split the cost. Any revenue generated from permits is credited back to the hosting department.
Regardless of how they pay for it, the cost doesn’t overburden either the hosts or the visitors. In fact, the savings can be quite striking when compared to the old structure.
For example, under the new system, an all-day midweek event that anticipated the use of 75 parking spaces in Lot 24 for eight hours, a total of two dozen road and pedestrian signs, and two lot attendants distributing permits for two hours would cost the hosting department $268.64, or about $3.58 a permit. If fewer spaces were used, the cost would go down. Under the old system, that same event would have cost the hosting department nearly $700.
“Through reducing costs and giving departments the option of how to recover their expenses, we really feel like we have accomplished the objective,” Artman said. “This is about providing a service, not making money, and the reaction has been very positive.”
“The new permit rates have made the cost of hosting events on campus a little more affordable,” said Orlando Taylor, assistant director of special programs at the UCR Career Center. “The men and women of Transportation and Parking services are usually the first people our guests interact with when visiting campus and that can set the tone on how smooth and successful our events turn out to be. We’ve always had a positive experience with them and appreciate all they have done, and are doing, to help make our events successful.”
“The change to the pricing structure has been wonderful for us,” agreed Robert Penman, marketing and communications manager for Undergraduate Admissions. “It has allowed us to pay for our guests to park at each of our major events; Scholarship Celebrations, Discover Day and Highlander Day. This leaves our guests with a much better impression of the campus because they won’t have to spend $5 to park and they don’t get stuck in long lines waiting to pay for a permit.”
Another change has been the adoption of a friendlier, more service-oriented philosophy when it comes to compliance and enforcement.
“Instead of focusing efforts on merely writing citations, we are asking officers to only cite individuals who willingly break the rules and infringe on the rights of others, and warn those who have made mistakes in judgment or policy interpretation,” Artman said, adding that officers are also taking the time to assist people with questions or directions, helping them get to their vehicles safely at night, and be on the lookout for suspicious or potentially criminal activity.
“In fact, this actually led to the arrest of individuals who were believed to have perpetrated a number of property crimes on campus last fall,” he said.
Several other changes and improvements have been implemented, or are planned in the near future, with the goal of improving the customer experience. These include:
- Examining the daily utilization of parking spaces in an effort to minimize the number of empty spaces during the day towards the goal of reducing or even eliminating waiting lists for some lots.
- Adding the ability to accept credit cards at Information Kiosks, which began on March 18. “We have received several requests for this service over the years,” Artman said.
- Reconvening a bicycle use committee to examine bicycle security concerns and options.
- Revamping the Vanpool Database and Application System to streamline processes and manage customer interaction in a more efficient manner.
- Creating dedicated group emails that will permit managers to communicate more effectively with customers and to solve issues and concerns in a timely manner.
Artman realizes they will never please everyone, and he can’t do the one thing everyone would like to see most – make parking on-campus free. It’s not his choice – the State of California’s Master Plan for Higher Education mandates that ancillary services like parking and transportation be financially self-sufficient, rather than use any taxpayer funds. That means everything that Transportation and Parking Services is responsible for, including salaries, upkeep of the parking lots, student mobility programs, and even alternative transportation programs designed to reduce the campus’ carbon emissions, such as the UPASS partnership with the RTA and campus vanpools, is funded through permit sales, citations and fees.
“Nobody likes to pay for parking. I understand that,” he said. “But our chief function is to protect the rights of those who do pay to park on campus. As a result, we are trying to be as friendly and accommodating as we can and to provide the best service possible.”