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Transportation Services

Parking modernization at the UW

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The changes coming in Spring Quarter are part of a multi-year effort to modernize parking at the University of Washington. The new integrated system will allow Transportation Services to track parking usage in real time, so that permit holders don’t arrive on campus to find their lots full and so that visitors aren’t turned away when there are actually available spaces. It will also allow most parking products to be purchased online for the first time.

These improvements, along with earlier ones such as the introduction and expansion of Pay-per-use parking (PPUP) and Pay by phone parking, are aimed at making more efficient use of the University’s limited parking spaces while protecting space for faculty, staff and student permit holders. They are also a response to community feedback seeking easier ways to purchase parking.

Parking modernization is aimed at helping the University meet the commitments made in the Campus Master Plan it signed with the City of Seattle. These include reducing the number of parking spaces from 12,200 to 9,000 by 2028. To achieve that goal, the University must make efficient use of its parking infrastructure.

Why product changes are necessary

The new integrated system is a modern parking software product in use at universities throughout the U.S. and Canada. It replaces an obsolete and vulnerable legacy software system designed in 1997. The new system enables many long-requested improvements, including the ability to purchase most products online and new options such as pay by phone.

In order to keep costs as low as possible and to ensure sustained vendor support, the extent this software could be customized was limited and several current UW parking products are unfortunately not compatible. It was therefore necessary to make changes to some products and retire others, such as Individual Commuter Tickets (ICTs) and Department Commuter Tickets (DCTs). In the new system, almost all parking permits will be virtual (linked to a license plate) rather than physical. This will also significantly reduce the opportunity for fraud, which has been an issue with paper tickets in the past.

Transportation Services was guided in its decision making by community feedback from the last several years. Faculty and staff representatives on the University Transportation Committee also weighed in. The feedback was consistent: Faculty and staff wanted to be able to purchase and manage their transportation products online, pay an employee parking rate even if they only parked occasionally, and to be assured that the space they’d purchased in a given lot was actually there for them when they arrived on campus. The new system moves the University closer to those goals.

A full list of the product changes is available on the parking changes webpage.

Options for ICT users

Faculty and staff who previously used ICTs have several product options with the new system.

  • Switch to one of six PPUP lots located around campus. With PPUP you have access to a space in a specific lot and are billed every pay period for the days you use. It is eligible for payroll deduction.
  • Use the new Daily permits, which can be purchased online the same day you want to park or up to two weeks in advance. You select the lot based on availability for the given day you are parking. Daily permits are not eligible for payroll deduction.
  • Use the self-serve parking options in E01 and E18, the two value lots located next to Montlake Boulevard NE. Self-serve parking is not eligible for payroll deduction.
  • If you need to park every day for a limited period of time, a short-term or longer single occupancy vehicle (SOV) permit may be a better choice. Annual SOVs are eligible for payroll deduction.

Please note that, just as in the past, all parking products are based on availability at time of purchase. Waiting lists will continue to exist for certain lots and garages.

Why tracking usage is important

The UW has 12,200 parking spaces on the Seattle campus. These are shared by regular users (faculty, staff, students) as well as intermittent ones (event attendees, vendors, contractors). Space must be held back for all these uses, as well as the 2,500 to 3,500 visitors who come to campus every day. This is particularly difficult with the North, Central, and West Campus lots, which have average occupancy rates over 80% and with S01, which is at 100%.

The current system cannot track parking space usage in real time, so parking operations staff makes estimates based on past use. Paper ICTs and DCTs cannot be tracked at all, since there is no way of knowing on any given day how many tickets are being used and in which lots. All of this makes managing and maximizing parking lot utilization extremely difficult, and can result in frustration for drivers as they try to park in a lot only to find it full.

The new system brings together all the different ways parking is sold (permits, gatehouse, pay by phone, events, etc.) into one unified database that will allow decisions to be made based on real-time usage data.