T2 Flex Overhauls Cumbersome Large Event Parking for a Smooth Visitor Experience
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse was using a cash-based parking system for large event parking, resulting in massive staffing requirements and persistent cash discrepancies. In order to modernize and improve efficiency during large events, they customized T2 Flex integrations and established a frictionless visitor experience.
The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse is one of the top public universities in the Midwest. With 102 undergraduate academic programs in 30 disciplines, 30 graduate programs, and two doctoral programs, UWL offers something for every student.
UWL invests in and supports the community by hosting prominent speakers, regional and national conferences, and cultural and sporting events. One of these events is the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) State Track & Field Championships, which UWL has hosted for over 30 years. This meet brings 20,000 visitors, athletes, and coaches to campus each June, which creates both challenges and opportunities for UWL Parking Services.
Historically, UWL athletes would volunteer to staff the gates and collect cash payments for parking. This was a slow and inefficient process. “As you can imagine, you have football player volunteers with an apron that’s holding cash, permits, and last year introduced credit card machines, which just complicated everything,” said Troy Richter, Parking Services Director.
“We were constantly having to run change out to all the different entrances. There were discrepancies in the cash. And even though we had a lot of safeguards for safe cash handling processes in place, invariably there would be shortages.”
All this inefficiency led to long lines that backed up onto the state highway, which feeds into UWL’s main entrance. “People complained that they weren’t getting in and being able to get over to the stadium fast enough,” Richter stated. “We were stopping literally every car, making change, putting a permit on their dash, then stopping them again and directing them where to go.”
Additionally, there was a significant strain on campus resources. The University Police Department would deploy most officers to help with traffic control, which took them away from other responsibilities. In addition, two Parking Services employees would spend their entire day simply managing cash flow and reconciling cash totals against permits sold.
“To see something that was a complete overhaul become a successful process has me excited to see how it can work even better next year. Leaning into our technology and working closely with our vendors helped us leverage what we already have, enabling us to improve the customer experience for the WIAA State Track and Field Championship.”
Troy Richter, Director of Parking Services
At IPMI in 2021, Richter listened to a presentation by the Miami Marlins and Miami Parking Authority about their creation of a free-flow, frictionless event solution. “I was really intrigued by it and wanted to implement this process for the track meet. I knew I would have to sell the concept to campus leadership and to the WIAA. We were negotiating a long-term contract with WIAA, so this was a way we could show that we’re committed and were striving to create an even better experience for the parkers at the meet.”
After gaining approval from UWL and WIAA, Richter and the team began working with T2 Systems to create their version of a cashless, frictionless solution. They were able to do so using their existing T2 Flex package, T2 Luke® pay stations, and mobile payment vendor.
In T2 Flex, UWL created guest permits for vehicles, buses, and RVs. Using the T2 FlexPort online portal, those guests could then create a login and purchase a permit in advance for the entire weekend or a specific day. Guests had the option of paying on site at a pay station or using the mobile app.
For enforcement, UWL was able to utilize its existing Genetec mobile LPR system. The Genetec system communicates with Flex to seamlessly check LPR reads against all valid guest permits, as well as any purchases made through the pay stations or the mobile app. If there was a hit, UWL provided a courtesy reminder to pay for parking while issuing a citation for the price of a permit. If a parker paid for parking after the citation was issued, the citation was voided.
Not only were the changes well received by visitors, but UWL also saw an increase in revenue from the event. To Richter’s surprise, much of that revenue came from online sales.
“Quite honestly, I was shocked to see the number of people who used the online permit sale, because I thought no one was going to want to enter all that information,” Richter explained. “A full 68 percent of our overall revenue came in through the online portal.”
Richter received a lot of feedback from visitors that they were glad they paid in advance. Among those who paid on site, 12 percent used a T2 pay station, and 13 percent used the mobile app.
With most visitors purchasing a permit online in advance and the rest paying after they were parked, UWL saw much shorter lines and fewer cars backed up onto the state highway. Online permit sales allowed the University Police Department to reduce the number of officers needed for traffic control. “That helped out their budget quite a bit as well,” Richter said.
The new solution also reduced the strain on the Parking Services team and its volunteers. “We were able to use our football player volunteers as Lot Ambassadors instead of as Gate Attendants—no change funds needed, no bundling change in aprons, no cash discrepancies, no handing out physical permits. LPR is great that way. It cuts your staff time and workload,” Richter stated. “Yes, we took more time on the initial setup, but, in the past, we had two staff members sitting back in a classroom counting money all day. This year, one of them was able to staff the main office in case people came in with questions, and the other one worked the lots with the rest of us.”
UWL ended up writing fewer than 400 tickets throughout the event, accounting for seven percent of the vehicles that parked on campus. Richter is confident that with more education and marketing to spread the word about how to pay for parking, that number will decrease in the future.
Overall, Richter views this new frictionless solution as a major success. “To see something that was a complete overhaul become a successful process has me excited to see how it can work even better next year. Leaning into our technology and working closely with our vendors helped us leverage what we already have, enabling us to improve the customer experience for the WIAA State Track and Field Championship.”Back