Tuesday, 18 December, 2012
Dear President Deane,
Transportation for Livable Communities (TLC) Hamilton is very interested in the potential for McMaster University to institute a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) scheme to address university parking issues.
A TDM policy would address future growth scenarios on campus by taking an integrated approach to reducing parking demand. Freeing-up space for new buildings and reducing traffic-related problems by enhancing transit, cycling and pedestrian environments will be a net benefit for the campus, the surrounding neighbourhoods and the city transportation network in general. These goals align with municipal and provincial policy guidelines like Hamilton’s Transportation Master Plan and Ontario’s Places To Grow, and as we will see, McMaster’s own planning documents.
For at least a dozen years, McMaster’s administration has been encouraged to institute measures related to TDM, starting with McMaster’s “Balanced Transportation Strategy” in 2000. McMaster’s Campus Master Plan (2002, updated 2008) recommends an 18 point TDM strategy, McMaster University’s Sustainable Policy speaks to the issue of transportation, McMaster Masters student Jessica S. Becker’s thesis, "Understanding Commuting Decisions: a case study of student and staff at McMaster University" 2007, made recommendations regarding TDM.
Overall, it seems that while McMaster has instituted some of the recommendations, there are many that have not been implemented, like the faculty and staff bus pass[i]. Winning a “Smart Commute Hamilton Employer of the Year” from Metrolinx is an indication of movement in the right direction, but we feel McMaster needs to do more. It appears to us that the parking issue is not being managed in a way conceived of by the university’s consultants, i.e. as part of a comprehensive TDM strategy. Instead, the Parking Office in 2012 appears to manage current parking with an eye to keeping as much parking space as possible[ii]. This despite the University's Campus Master Plan’s mandate to provide “’less than average’ parking facilities.” [iii] Yet with a different emphasis, toward sustainability, the Parking Office could just as well reorganize to institute a TDM.
Research indicates that “many universities and colleges have found that it can be less expensive to accommodate travel in modes other than the single-occupant vehicle.[iv]” The same researchers helpfully suggest,
“[taking] a comprehensive look at parking and transportation together, comparing their costs per trip accommodated and their resulting traffic impacts. Rather than: How much parking is required? The question then becomes a far wider one: What is the optimum mix of new parking and investment in alternative means of travel to meet an institution’s transportation needs and contribute to wider institution and community goals?[v]”
Modal splits advertised on the Sustainability Office web page reveal room for improvement, especially along the staff and faculty side of parking, with 65 percent of staff and faculty choosing to drive compared to 24 percent of students, and according to another study, over 1/3 of staff are parking permit holders living within 5k of campus[vi], a distance considered optimal for alternative modes of transportation.
Whatever the actual methods to achieve lower parking demand, TLC believes McMaster has a responsibility to make the shift toward sustainability with regard to parking. Fortunately McMaster has some guiding principles to refer to as we move forward. The Talloires Declaration, the Campus Master Plan, Forward with Integrity, along with the Sustainability Office mission all apply, even Facility Services[vii] has a mission in line with this vision.
We would like to point out that other universities have successfully applied TDM strategies with measurable positive results: Cornell University increased parking prices for a 26 percent reduction in demand; University of Colorado Boulder’s faculty/staff bus program frees up 350 parking spaces; and Stanford University instituted transportation strategies to maintain trip levels constant in the face of campus growth[viii]. The University of British Columbia created a Strategic Transportation Plan (STP) in 1999 and renewed it in 2005. They were influential in initiating a class time shift to reduce the transportation demand, investing in cycling infrastructure and creating the U-Pass program, which has been adopted by other Canadian universities, McMaster included. Over the past thirteen years they have met or surpassed their goals and are in the process of updating their STP.
McMaster is fortunate to have relevant expertise on campus for such a project through the McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics (MITL).
With these things in mind, TLC requests the following of McMaster University:
Mandate the Parking Office to implement a TDM strategy with stated goals and objectives, through discussions and work with stakeholders such as MITL, TLC, and other relevant departments and agencies.
We would appreciate an opportunity to hear what McMaster University is planning in regard to the issues we’ve raised, in the interest of moving forward together on these long-outstanding issues.
Thank you on behalf of TLC,
Reuven Dukas and Randy Kay
[i] McMaster’s Balanced Transportation Strategy, 2000.
[ii] March 24, 2012, Hamilton Spectator, They Paved Paradise
[iii] Becker, Jessica S. "Understanding commuting decisions: a case study of students and staff at McMaster University", 2007
[iv] Adam, Millard-Ball, Patrick Siegman, and Jeffrey Tumlin. 2004 “Solving Campus Parking Shortages: New Solutions for an Old Problem.”
[v] Adam, Millard-Ball, Patrick Siegman, and Jeffrey Tumlin. 2004 “Solving Campus Parking Shortages: New Solutions for an Old Problem.”
[vi] Becker , Jessica S. "Understanding commuting decisions: a case study of students and staff at McMaster University", 2007
[vii] McMaster Facility Service web page http://ppims.mcmaster.ca/pplant/aboutus.html “Sustainability is a focus of management of the campus, with stewardship of natural lands, forest, watershed and the urban landscape of primary concern. A haven of diverse ecosystems and wildlife, McMaster’s abundant natural lands provide a unique university setting, and opportunity for study”
[viii] Adam, Millard-Ball, Patrick Siegman, and Jeffrey Tumlin. 2004 “Solving Campus Parking Shortages: New Solutions for an Old Problem.”