WMU will not construct additional parking: University unveils other potential transportation solutions

The parking lot at Sangren hall, one of the largest and most accessible on campus, is reserved for employees only.

Western Michigan University held a Transportation Master Plan (TMP) open house on Wednesday, Sept. 25 to discuss students’ needs in regards to parking and other forms of transportation on campus.

WMU engaged Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates, a firm recognized for their expertise in campus mobility, for assistance in the preparation of a TMP at the open house. Nelson/Nygard’s findings were discussed and several plans for managing and improving parking, mobility, safety, and access were proposed.

The plans included ideas such as different road structures, creating bike paths, and adopting a “park once approach to driving and parking on campus.” However, despite the forum, students still find themselves frustrated with the lack of accessible parking on campus. 

Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates provided some strategies for WMU to review and decide how to proceed. These ideas included: 

  • Defining geographic priorities for changes to parking supply based on use and need. 

  • Defining and monitoring performance measures and targets, prioritizing availability. 

  • Use pricing to distribute demand. 

  • Shifting towards virtual permitting. 

  • Transitioning towards monthly permits and providing more flexible permit options 

  • Piloting first-year student parking restrictions. 

  • Balancing new Hilltop Village parking demand with broader mobility goals and campus vision. 

Tom Brown, principal-in-charge of this project, said that these ideas, if implemented, will lower the amount of spaces being occupied in student parking. Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates worked on similar projects at other colleges, and Brown said that strategies like these will work more effectively than adding new parking spaces. 

“A lot of people want more garages,” Brown said. “We have to look at what we can do and what we can afford.” 

Brown also said that some of these strategies will benefit the students. 

“Virtual permitting provides a lot more flexibility for students,” Brown said. 

He explained that with a virtual permit students will not need a physical permit. Instead, their permit would be read through their license plate. He said this could help students by helping to prevent non-students from parking in student areas.

Brown also said that having monthly permits could help with overcrowding. 

“You won’t have to buy a permit for the whole year,” he said. “You could get one for the month of January or February when it’s cold and you don’t want to walk.” 

These ideas were shared to WMU and they currently will not have a full plan to fix parking and other transportation needs until near the end of this year. 

Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates conducted a survey towards the end of the Spring 2019 semester on student and staff transportation experiences on campus. 844 people participated in this study; 41% of the participants were WMU staff, 29% were faculty and 22% were students. The rest were community members who visit Western’s campus. 

The majority of employees were satisfied with their parking location and rates. The study found that only 47% of students were similarly satisfied.

According to the TMP Existing Conditions Report, WMU also has about 14,000 parking spaces available for main and east campus and about 18,000 passes were given out during the 2017-2018 school year. Of these parking spaced and permits: 

  • Resident parking had 1,887 permits with 2,529 spots reserved for them. 

  • Consumer parking had 9,446 permits with 3,091 reserved for them. 

  • Part-Time and Full-Time Employees had 6,169 permits with 3,322 parking spots. 

  • All-Permit parking takes up 3,173 spots. 

WMU does plan to follow up with the TMP in addressing the issue with parking at the end of this year. At this point however, the university will not be building more parking.

 

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