Campus Voices: Peter Lange

From TAMUtimes

Peter Lange

What does Transportation Services do besides parking?

Although we are one of the largest university parking operations in the nation with the greatest number of parking spaces, parking is just one part of the business we manage. We give 45,000 bus rides per day, make gates go up and down 9,000 times per day and dispense over 2,000 gallons of fuel per day. We acquire, maintain, repair and fuel the 650 vehicles in the university fleet and the 80 university-owned buses. We offer services such as parking, car sharing, ride sharing and traffic support. We use an enforcement team to provide assistance for customers who are out of gas, need air in a tire or need a jumpstart for their batteries and to help ensure parking spaces paid for by our customers are available for their use. We also are responsible for painting crosswalks and streets, repairing and constructing parking lots, fabricating and installing signs and placing traffic control devices such as barricades and cones. We manage getting people to and from small and large on-campus events by providing permits, maps and signage.

We facilitate access so people get where they need to go. When the campus is impacted by construction or closures, we become engaged to help ensure competing interests for access are considered and balanced to find the best and safest solution for as many constituency groups as possible. We try to be proactive to anticipate the needs of and coordinate access for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

We take pride in the way the campus has come to rely upon us for up-to-date traffic and parking advisories announcing closures and detours that may affect travel on or around campus. We are often called upon to communicate major construction and/or traffic projects which impact the campus even though they are not projects initiated or managed by us.  For example, the Ross Street project is not a Transportation Services project, but it does impact our customers, so we felt it was important to communicate the aspects of this project, including traffic and transit changes.

Where does the money from parking fees go?

Parking income comes from permit sales, visitor parking fees, parking tickets and charges associated with managing special events. Our department is operated as an auxiliary, which means we must be self-supporting. We receive no funding from tuition, university or state revenue. The income we collect is used for maintaining and renovating parking facilities; one example is a recent project that replaced the lighting in all the garages. In the last three years, we have renovated or reconstructed more than 20 percent of the surface parking on the campus with a plan to continue to invest $2 million each year to parking facility and lighting improvement.

A portion of the parking revenue is used to make the payment on more than $4 million in debt service for the structures built on our campus in the past 15 years, such as West Campus Garage. Other parts of the operation funded by parking revenues include the staff, technology and equipment needed to manage the bike program, the customer assistance center, our communication team and parking lot management equipment such as gates and intercoms.

We have ensured sound financial planning and projecting expenses so we can confidently commit that there will no increase in permit prices for the 2012 academic year.

Is there going to be more parking available on campus?

We readily gauge customer expectations and work to balance them in relation to directives about parking included in the university’s master plan.  The master plan calls for a pedestrian-friendly campus with less parking within the core of campus pushing vehicles to the periphery. Our goal is to provide access and options for faculty, staff and students in order to get them where they need to go in the most efficient means possible. Over the last 8 years, more than 1,800 spaces on main campus have been consumed by construction projects. However the overall parking inventory has remained unchanged during this same period, as new spaces have been added on west campus. Still, we recognize our customers want the convenience of main campus parking and are working with an engineering firm to develop a model that will help identify potential locations for the next main campus garage along with the positive and negative impact it would have on meeting customer demand, traffic patterns and congestion.

What are some of the next projects Transportation Services will be working on?

We will be reconstructing lots 23, 37, 46, 48, and 59 this summer. These renovations will include lighting upgrades.

We have recently made real- time bus tracking available on our website with a version optimized for mobile devices coming soon.

What do you think is the most important thing you do? 

One of the most important things we do is provide access and options for faculty, staff, students and visitors so they may get to where they need to go in the way that suits them best. In most cases, we are able to provide multiple options for customers that vary on the scales of convenience and affordability so they can make choices to match their available time and resources. Another critical function we fulfill is communicating with our customers in order to keep them informed of what’s happening on and around our campus.