Friday, March 29, 2013

How Is McMaster Doing with Parking?

For at least a dozen years, McMaster’s administration has been encouraged to institute measures related to Transportation Demand Management (TDM), starting with McMaster’s “Balanced Transportation Strategy.” 

In 2000 the Board's Planning & Building Committee recommended “the adoption of the strategy comprising the following components:

·      parking supply expansions limited to at-grade only (no garage);
·      participate with the Hamilton Street Railway to subsidize faculty and staff transit passes;
·      assess parking permit rates to make transit more attractive for faculty, staff and students (changes should be implemented before 2003); and
·      implement additional travel demand management 

McMaster’s Campus Master Plan (2002, updated 2008) recommends an 18 point TDM strategy which include, in part: 
  • Capping parking levels on North Campus…limiting the increase in peak hour and single-occupancy trips to today’s levels (5.2.1)
  • potentially limit on campus parking to certain groups (5.2.2)
  • improve transit, pedestrian and cycling access (5.2.3)
  • encourage City and HSR to implement a transit strategy to ensure transit routes are efficiently and effectively serving campus and surrounding neighbourhood. “This strategy may also include the development of an HSR turn-around serving the McMaster Community on or adjacent to the campus” (5.2.8)[McMaster’s demand to remove 50 bus trips per day due to a squabble with the city over construction trucks does not reflect well on this subject from a planning perspective[i]]
  • identifies a preferred location for an HSR transit turn-around as north of the Sterling Street entrance (5.2.9)
  •  reduce transit fares for the entire McMaster community, improve service levels, schedule buses to coincide with class schedules (5.2.10)
  • GO service and price improvements (5.2.11)
  • off campus housing coordinated with transit routes (5.2.12)
  • work with city to determine its potential role in accommodating more high occupant vehicle trips to campus… transit priority systems, carpool programs, commuter parking lots around periphery of campus at access points to the HSR (5.2.13)
  • classes will continue to be scheduled evenly throughout the day and week to reduce peaks in parking and travel demand (5.2.14)
  •  increase parking rates (5.2.16)
  • work with city to enforce parking bylaws off campus (5.2.17)
  • carpool program, park closer or at reduced rate (5.2.18)
Given the commanding success and popularity of the undergraduate bus pass, a major omission in the CMP is that there is no mention of 2000’s Balanced Transportation Strategy’s recommendation that a subsidized transit pass for staff and faculty be pursued.

McMaster University’s Sustainable Policy speaks to the issue of transportation with these items: 
“The University encourages sustainable modes of transportation and recognizes the need to balance the demands of pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. To adhere to this goal, the University will pursue the following objectives:  • collaborate and coordinate with other community agencies and groups (e.g., Hamilton Street Railway, City of Hamilton and neighbouring communities) to encourage the use of sustainable modes of transportation;
• provide amenities to encourage the use of sustainable modes of transportation (e.g., bicycle lockers and racks, external emergency telephones and pedestrian-priority campus walkways);
• provide education to promote pedestrian and bicycle safety in and around the campus; and
• identify and implement sustainable alternatives to University-owned vehicles where appropriate. 
The sustainability list is light on actual detail, but we understand the introduction of a flex-pass is being trialed currently[ii]. We hope the flex pass is used in such a way as to reduce overall demand, rather than possibly creating more trips to campus in motor vehicles.

McMaster Masters student Jessica S. Becker’s thesis, "Understanding Commuting Decisions: a case study of student and staff at McMaster University" 2007, made the following recommendations: 
  • Discourage Single-Occupant Car Use Prior to Permit Assignment
  • Actively Provide Transit Information with a Trial Pass
  • Improved and Regular Recognition and Rewards
  • Increased Number of Pre-Paid Parking Options
  • Prohibit Increases to Parking Infrastructure and its Planning
Going back further, we find that warnings about parking problems were discussed during a time of accelerated campus growth in the 1960s:

“From our experience and from the literature of our profession, it is apparent that hospitals, colleges and universities throughout North America have become more aware of the realities of the carparking problem through the past decade. They have realized that without definitive policies, carparking demands can swell into enormous appetites for greensward conversion, capital and operating funds[iii], and administration and policing attention....”[iv]

Smith foresaw problems and recommended that

…the University should limit its responsibility in such access/egress matters to:
       providing only a sufficient quantum of carparking to serve the needs of those users willing to pay the full economic charges for same [emphasis added]
       soliciting and encouraging public transport authorities to improve service schedules and routes. 

Overall, it seems that while McMaster has instituted at least some of the earlier recommendations, there are many that have not been implemented. It appears to us that the parking issue is not being managed in a way conceived of by the university’s consultants, i.e. in a comprehensive TDM strategy. Instead, the Parking Office in 2012 seems content to manage current parking with an eye to keeping as much parking space as possible[v]. This despite the university's own Campus Master Plan’s mandate to provide “’less than average’ parking facilities.” [vi] Yet with a different emphasis, toward sustainability, the Parking Office could just as well reorganize to institute a TDM.

In this regard, though, McMaster appears headed in the wrong direction. In 2008, the Sustainability Office replaced the All-Modes Commuting and Transportation (ACT) Office, (2002-2008) whose focus was “to inspire McMaster faculty, staff and students to bike, hike, take transit and share the ride to campus.”[vii] Without detracting from their many positive contributions, the Sustainability Office, with a wide focus on “sustainability” involving focus areas of Education, Energy, Green Space, Health & Wellbeing, Transportation, Waste, and Water, doesn’t appear to have the resources required to implement a focused and goal oriented TDM strategy.

[i] "McMaster's Campus Plan emphasizes the University's goal of maintaining and strengthening the pedestrian nature of campus, and in order to achieve that goal, the number of buses moving through the centre core of campus needed to be reduced," says Terry Sullivan, director of parking and security. "The City requirement that trucks coming to campus must use the centre core made it necessary to ask the HSR to develop a plan to reduce the bus traffic."
Jim Dahms is the manager of transit planning for the HSR. He says that moving the B-line rather than one of the other bus routes through campus was the best decision as it means better future alignment with the potential new Light Rapid transit or Bus Rapid transit corridor along Main Street.” McMaster Daily News, August 19, 2008
[iii] “The University Parking Department budget is over $1,000,000.00 per year with roughly $650,000 for infrastructure and  $450,000 to wages and benefits to staff and security” Notes from a phone call to Parking (Andrei Lambert, e-mail May 4, 2012)
[iv] R.F. Smith, Manager of Engineering, Health Science Centre, Parking Design and Development Ltd. Letter dated 4th March, 1969, in Revised Interim Internal Traffic and Parking Report, June 1969 by H.G. Acres and Company Limited, June 1969.
[v] March 24, 2012, Hamilton Spectator, They Paved Paradise
[vi] Becker, 92
[vii] “Get in on the ACT” Transportation page, Sustainability Office at McMaster

No comments: