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Campus Transportation Redefined

Over the past 15 years TransLoc has worked with campus parking and transportation departments across the United States. In this time we’ve had exposure to very unique environments – in service setup, delivery, needs, and roles. We’ve also witnessed an evolution take shape; one that is observable at an industry-wide level. This evolution centers on creating and delivering mobility services based on consumer demand, not solely operating and managing individual mode supply.

Campus transportation services have morphed beyond the traditional model of a basic fixed route shuttle. As demand for campus transportation service grows (some of our campus transit agencies mimic annual ridership numbers of small to mid-size transit agencies), and parking availability decreases, departments are left trying to balance the car-centric needs of today with the predicted availability of autonomous, micro, and shared modes of the future. In fact, some of these new models for mobility are quickly becoming the norm for many young adults. This rapidly changing transit environment has put campus transportation at the center of many initiatives well beyond their traditional roles. Many of these initiatives are key to a viable future for campus environments.

Campus transportation departments as stewards of sustainability

Top of mind for many campuses is sustainability and carbon footprint. With finite resources and land availability, campuses must look for new, innovative ways to maximize the use of those resources while also balancing the needs of their students, employees, and visitors. Decreasing investment needed for on-site parking is one important way to reduce both their footprint and reduce costs. This puts campus parking and transportation departments at the center of their campuses’ sustainability efforts. Not only do these departments play a crucial role in managing parking changes, but they must also manage the promotion of alternative transportation options to offset the need for more parking. They do this through increased service offerings either directly through their own operations, or indirectly through third-party private providers.

Campus transportation departments are also taking on TDM (Transportation Demand Management) programs that enable carpooling and shared use options as additional supplements of services and to incentivize alternative choices to single occupancy private car usage. All of these efforts matched with increased emphasis of “greening” their transportation fleets are just some of the ways that campus transportation and parking maintain a leadership role in decreasing congestion, altering campus flow, and promoting campus livability and sustainability into the future.

Campus transportation is critical for campus safety and accessibility

In the past, campus transportation efforts often began as student-led initiatives. Many times this was due to a need for greater, better access to institutions that enable learning, opportunities, and progress for individuals and societies. Today, that mission of accessibility remains key to campus transportation and mobility efforts. Accessibility in terms of being able to get to places – to the campus, to class, to a job – is possible because of transportation access management within and around the campus. But also, accessibility in terms of transportation options that accommodate all needs regardless of ability.

Safety is also a part of access management. As part of making modes available for movement, campus transportation is tasked with ensuring that students, faculty, and staff are safe not only when using these services, but also around the campus environment as a whole. From enabling late night safe ride services to playing a key role in an emergency response situation, campus transportation departments must maintain a reputation and quality of service in line with campus values and brand.

Campus transportation is key to overall campus mobility management

One of the biggest roles that campus parking and transportation departments are taking charge of is overall campus mobility management, not just shuttles and parking. Campus transportation departments now oversee a portfolio of mobility options available to students and employees – whether the campus directly operates those services or not. Managing all of the modes from privately owned to wholly shared has become one of the biggest shifts that these departments find themselves making. This presents new opportunities for campus transportation departments to ensure better overall access to travel around a campus environment, and also improve service planning based on demand and density of the population served.

What comes with this shift towards mobility management is new models for managing access and service such as understanding the tradeoffs between improved access and disruptions. Striking a balance in tradeoffs created by TNCs (Transportation Network Companies) and micro-modes (dockless e-scooters, e-bikes) is important for managing campus environments. It’s vital that campus transportation and parking departments are empowered to embrace their leadership role as mobility managers for campuses to ensure a robust, effective campus environment.

Campus transportation departments are fast becoming campus data and technology hubs

As campus transportation departments become more dominant players in the functionality of campus environments, these departments are maximizing the use of technologies to enable capabilities at scale. This, matched with the proliferation and use of mobile technologies by students and employees, has put campus transportation and parking departments at the center of a campus digital ecosystem.

Parking, campus transportation services, carpool, event information, etc. must now all work within the same ecosystem powered by shared data sources. These data sources are often attributed to existing registration and account services, and are tied to student mobile applications or parking data. The use of these services in conjunction with user accounts create rich data sets about movement and flow around campus that are desired by other planners in auxiliary or services departments on campus. These departments are now looking to campus transportation departments to be a core technology provider enabling a seamless experience for how to access and move around campus.

Beyond that, campus transportation departments themselves are maximizing the use of this data to better inform service planning decisions, improve responsiveness to campus transit needs, and optimize their services, both parking and transportation, for peak performance. Again, this data is rich for uses beyond campus transportation because it can provide a pulse check on the health of campus operations.

Campus transportation is key to talent acquisition and campus experience

An area that often gets overlooked but is very much felt by campus parking and transportation departments is their role as key contributors to talent acquisition and brand experience. As consumer behaviors alter and talent (both students and employees) compares their options, access to transit and varied mobility options to campuses becomes a key differentiator. The institution or organization alone is no longer the only deciding factor. The quality of the student and employee experience has become an important consideration. Campus transportation and ease of access to a campus environment are now important decision points for many. How those parking and transportation services are consumed and managed are now part of the customer experience. To have mobility availability and access on campus means to be competitive in a selective talent pool. This sheds new light on campus transportation departments. They are no longer just passive operations but are instead active, key generators of talent acquisition and retention.

The role of campus parking and transportation has expanded beyond the traditional model. From directly impacting how people travel to, around, and from campus to being mission critical to the success and safety of a campus day to day, these departments are being redefined. The future of mobility on campuses will be dependent on their leadership and expertise. It’s important that campus environments, from executive leadership to advising boards, understand the importance of campus transportation departments and place a premium on their success.