UW-Madison Creates a Better Parking Experience
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is the oldest and largest public university in the state of Wisconsin. UW-Madison and the City of Madison have been intertwined since 1848, when Wisconsin attained statehood and the university was founded.
Having grown together for 170-plus years, the city and the university are both respected for their forward-thinking culture and leadership in science and technology. The city and university grew in prestige as well as population: Madison now boasts a population of over 250,000, with over 67,000 of those residents being UW-Madison faculty, staff, and students. Add in millions of visitors each year, and you have a lot of people needing a place to park. Situated on an isthmus bordered by two lakes, Madison’s geography presents unique opportunities to apply innovative solutions to campus parking management.
Prior to the implementation of T2 solutions at UW-Madison, access control and enforcement were a struggle for the UW-Madison Transportation Services team. Most of the university’s facilities were ungated, with parking meters on the first floor for visitor parking and permit parking on the upper levels. This scenario led to low rates of compliance and extra work for the enforcement group. Officers would spend all night circling facilities, checking vehicles, and writing citations. The need for rigorous enforcement also created an unfavorable public image for the department, as officers were viewed as “citation happy” and often challenged by parkers who had received a citation.
Additionally, Transportation Services lacked a cohesive system for tracking permits, citations, and access. Because their software system was difficult to use and did not offer reporting capabilities, the team used spreadsheets to manually document, track, and enforce parking. Troy Ruland, the department’s Field Services Manager, remarked that “the old system was messy, it was inconsistent, and we were not all on the same page.” The inconsistencies caused additional complications between the customer service and enforcement groups, making it difficult to control campus parking.
Knowing they had to make a change, the Transportation Services team set out to find a provider that could deliver a reliable, all-in-one system to create a better experience for both staff and customers.
In 2010 UW-Madison issued a Request for Proposal for a new parking system. After a competitive bidding process, T2 was selected and began to work with Transportation Services on migrating campus systems to T2 Flex. Flex provided the team with the all-in-one system they were looking for, enabling them to manage their permits, enforcement, and access in one place. Gates were also added to many campus parking facilities, and over 1,200 meters were replaced with T2 Series I PARCS equipment. These systems and equipment upgrades enabled the Transportation Services team to better control lot and garage entries, as well as work toward centralizing visitor parking in these facilities.
Recently, UW-Madison began upgrading the aging Series I hardware to T2’s newest offering: the Logan series. Logan features an updated design with easier access to internal components for maintenance, EMV readers for increased security, and non-ingest ticket processing. “Using barcodes and not having to worry about ingestion or ticket jams was one of the things we were pretty excited about,” said Ben Rissman, PARCS IT Engineer.
The Transportation Services team has appreciated T2’s support throughout the upgrade process, and particularly T2’s openness to addressing safety concerns. For the Logan PARCS upgrade, electrical standards needed to meet the highest expectations for employee safety. Rissman explained, “from the start of the project everyone has been listening to us about what exactly we need to ensure that we are safe.” He further explains that he was “really impressed by how open [T2 is] to feedback. You ask, ‘Hey, why don’t we do it this way instead?’ and if it’s a reasonable idea, then they’ve been really receptive to it, which is something we appreciate a lot.”
In addition to working with T2 for implementation support, Transportation Services has also engaged with T2’s Professional Services team to review the university’s parking operations and receive recommendations to streamline some processes. A recent site visit from the Professional Services team generated a handful of future projects to improve workflows and customer experience.
Flex was a significant upgrade for UW-Madison’s parking database. Transportation Services sells over 30,000 permits and processes millions of dollars of parking transactions each year, resulting in an extensive, complex database. Flex has made it easier to access data, as well as utilize APIs to integrate with other systems. “The Flex database has been really easy to pull data from. And in terms of interacting with data from some of our weird, custom workflows, the API has really made that possible without causing too much of a headache for our staff, the customer, or for T2,” said Steven Tan, former PARCS IT Analyst.
UW-Madison has also seen other benefits of hosting their system with T2. For instance, Flex’s uptime has been beneficial, and only a handful of outages have been reported over the years. “When you compare that to some of the outages you have with other vendor systems, it’s pretty refreshing,” Rissman stated. “You don’t really think about it, because it’s just working all the time.” Additionally, Transportation Services has reduced its reliance on internal IT departments because T2’s experienced team of parking technology experts is available to assist with operational needs.
Implementing gated systems in UW-Madison’s parking facilities has significantly improved access control and enforcement, as well as helped mend Transportation Services’ campus reputation. The system enables customers to easily process payments and self-manage their parking, thereby reducing the need for an enforcement response. “Our customers have a better experience, and we are able to manage the facilities more efficiently,” Ruland said.
While UW Transportation Services is still in the process of upgrading PARCS equipment to Logan, the team has already observed positive differences with the new system. Maintenance of the new machines is much easier. Logan’s removable side panels have improved safety for staff who no longer have to work in the lane, and allow two people to work on the machine at once (for example, a technician can perform maintenance while a gate attendant replaces ticket stock). Additionally, Logan’s EMV credit card readers offer point-to-point encryption for added data security, as well as an easier PCI process.
In addition to the benefits of equipment and systems upgrades, T2’s robust community of customers and staff has also aided in Transportation Services’ goals to enhance parking operations. T2-hosted conferences and the Customer Community website have been particularly valuable resources for the Transportation Services team. “It’s been good to see people having similar issues to what we’re having and how they’re working through it. The community is pretty important to helping us optimize our solution,” remarked Isaac Knoflicek, Assistant Director of Parking Technology.
Most significantly, Logan has made a difference for customers parking on campus. The new EMV readers make credit card transactions more secure, and the team has received positive feedback about the devices’ aesthetics and ease of use. The barcode readers have also streamlined the payment process. “We don’t have to worry about customers saying their tickets can’t be read because of a damaged magstripe,” said Tanara Teal-Tate, Director of Parking Operations. “They always say that parking is the first and last thing that people see, so we just want to make sure that whatever product we have is going to be premier and able to work when needed,” stated Teal-Tate. UW-Madison has found that premier product with T2.