Managing parking on university campuses has always been a tricky juggling act. The wildly different needs of students, faculty, staff, and visitors combined with shifting customer expectations has prompted many universities to rethink parking by embracing modern innovations.

In our webinar, The University Guide: Leveraging Smart Parking Across Campus, we chatted with the team at the University of Colorado, Boulder about how smart technologies and mobile payment solutions created a better customer experience and helped them better utilize parking resources. Led by Nathan Would, Senior Account Manager at ParkMobile, we were also joined by:

  • Tom McGann, Director of Parking Services, CU Boulder
  • Michael Zoppa, Business Systems Analyst, CU Boulder
  • Roger Wisehart, Mid-Sized Campus Parking Events Manager, CU Boulder

Here were some of the important lessons, tips, and takeaways from our discussion:

More Flexibility and Customer Choice

 Many campuses are seeing more students but less parking – a trend that was only accelerated by the global pandemic in 2020. Combined with a host of other initiatives and increased use of public transport, traditional long-term permit models are under strain. At CU Boulder and other campuses, smart parking technology like ParkMobile plays an important role in adapting to the ever-changing needs of on-campus parking.

The flexibility provided by these systems lets universities make better use of their inventory with daily decision parking now an option for students and staff. Rates for daily parking and permits can all be customized for specific populations. Since permits can be managed by users themselves, it also cuts the headache of having to go into an office. Daily decision also allows universities to provide cost-effective, accessible parking for students who may not want or can’t afford a permit.

However, it was noted that smart parking and mobile apps can also be implemented alongside traditional permits, and underutilized lots can even be turned into temporary mobile-only parking areas during off-peak hours.

Streamline Event and Transient Parking Experience

 The adaptability of ParkMobile allowed CU to tailor their event parking for each event, a move that increased revenue while cutting back on required staff. With ParkMobile, they created the ability to pre-sell parking, create temporary VIP areas on campus, offer discount codes, and other user-friendly features. For example, during the Bolder Boulder, the largest 10k in the country, they created start and finish line parking areas that let customers choose how they parked.

Further, the implementation of a mobile app let them better streamline parking management for mid and small-sized events. Special parking zones and promo codes helped them cut down on enforcement complications and made the parking process smoother for attendees, who simply need to enter an event-specific code after they arrive.

 Reduce Parking Confusion and Boost Compliance

 Like many universities, CU often struggled to communicate parking requirements to the many visitors coming on campus, whether for events or the sports medicine center. Adopting ParkMobile helped drastically reduce confusion among pay-to-park customers by creating new ways to educate visitors. With a mobile app, parking information, maps, and other important information can be sent to customers before they arrive on campus, based on their specific needs. It also allows universities to set up user-friendly parking validation for medical visitors or department-specific events.

Both Zoppa and McGann stressed how important effective communication was to the success of CU’s parking system. There are currently no parking gates on campus at CU Boulder, and the parking system is paperless, using virtual permits and license-plate based enforcement for transient parking. So with fewer people coming into an office or using physical pay stations, it’s important to embrace other methods to engage with customers.

Gain More Visibility With Smart Integrations

 Beyond improving the flow of traffic on campus, increasing revenue, and creating better customer experiences, smart parking technology provides valuable real-time data and metrics. Since ParkMobile can seamlessly communicate with other systems, it’s become an important part of improving parking for the future. The team at CU Boulder noted how ParkMobile allowed them to gather customer and financial information data which they could use to set parking rates, communicate with parkers, set budgets, and better plan event operations on the day.

Universities never shy away from finding bold, innovative solutions to age old problems. As we’ve seen, embracing smart parking technology like ParkMobile is another step in the journey of transforming campus parking. Watch the full webinar on-demand.