Campus parking is without a doubt an integral part of any university and critical to its continued growth. At UNLV, Parking and Transportation Services makes providing adequate parking for students, faculty, staff, and visitors a top priority.
After the development of the Campus Master Plan, the department created a plan of its own. The purpose of the Parking and Transportation Master Plan is to enhance access, parking, and circulation on and around campus, develop transportation alternatives, and improve customer services interactions.
Within the last year, Parking and Transportation Services has been hard at work to accomplish these goals and is on the right track with recently launched programs and construction projects. Here’s a look at what’s new and improved in 2022.
The original Tropicana Parking Garage, accessible from Tropicana Avenue on the south end of campus, opened in 2009 to provide more convenient parking for students and increase the available surface spaces for events.
“The expansion of the Tropicana Parking Garage was included in both the Campus and Parking and Transportation Master Plans for this to be our next garage,” said Tad McDowell, director of Parking and Transportation Services.
When the time came to expand, McDowell and his team submitted a construction management work order to Planning and Construction to build a new four-level parking garage that connects to the existing garage on all levels and improve traffic flow on campus by adding more parking spaces. The entire Tropicana Parking Garage will provide a total of 2,009 spaces.
“The garage expansion will provide additional parking for students coming to class and staff working in the area, ease the impacts of increased demand during events, and reduce obstacles in finding adequate parking at the busiest times,” McDowell said. “We desire to have parking be the best that it can be because it’s the first thing people see when they arrive on campus and the last thing they see when they leave.”
A project of this magnitude required the help of Michael Kwiecien, senior project manager for Planning and Construction, who has worked with McDowell on previous construction projects. “The Tropicana Parking Garage is unique as it represents UNLV’s first design-build project,” Kwiecien said. This means that designers and developers are under the same contract. According to Kwiecien, the Planning and Construction department typically manages design-bid-build projects, which means they contract designers and builders independently.
During the initial phase of the project, UNLV stakeholders worked together with the design-build contractor (McCarthy Building Companies Inc.) and architect (Choate Parking Consultants, Inc.) to review and finalize the construction plans for all aspects of the design.
One of the features of the garage is having it fully enabled with Wi-Fi access. “We installed Wi-Fi on the inside of the garage on every level in order to provide students with the ability to access Wi-Fi at all times to and from their cars,” Kwiecien said. “We also added Wi-Fi on the exterior of the entire parking garage which will enable those parking in the surface lot next to the garage to have access to Wi-Fi as well”
The Parking and Transportation Services department also made the decision to make improvements to the interior and exterior of the existing garage to match that of the new garage expansion project. This resulted in an architectural and technological matching blend between old and new parking garages.
The Tropicana Parking Garage isn’t the only parking improvement around campus. At the end of June 2022, Parking and Transportation Services removed parking meters and transitioned to a cashless hourly parking system throughout the campus via PayByPhone.
The third-party application, first introduced on campus in 2016, allows individuals to pay for student daily, hourly, or visitor parking on campus from their phones. “It’s such a highly successful program for us,” said Sandy Ziegler, assistant director for Parking and Transportation Services. “Over the years, as PayByPhone continued to increase, we saw our meter usage decrease.”
When it came time to look at potential meter upgrades or system changes, Ziegler said it was a logical choice to grow an enhanced PayByPhone program. The process is simple. Once a customer finds a PayByPhone parking spot, they must sign into their account (first-time users will need to register) and enter the location for the lot or parking space, vehicle information, the time needed, and payment method.
Another benefit of PayByPhone is the ability to notify customers when their parking session is about to expire and give them the option of extending it without having to return to their vehicle to do so.
Aside from the PayByPhone factor, parking on campus is even more convenient with a virtual parking permit system that uses license plate recognition (LPR) technology to connect license plates to annual, nine-month, and semester parking permits. These permits can be purchased online through the UNLV Parking Portal.
“We’ve been trying to implement virtual parking permits for the past few years,” Ziegler said. “With virtual parking permits, your license plate functions as your permit. Your permission to park on campus begins as soon as you complete the transaction.” However, there’s one thing to remember. “Since your license plate is your permit, it’s important that the information entered is accurate,” she said.
Parking and Transportation Services, which assists with coordinating more than 1,900 events annually, recently implemented a new way for departments and organizations to submit parking requests.
“Our new event parking request process allows departments and organizations to plan and gather their event information in one place,” Ziegler said. “It’s a feature that will bring us up-to-date on handling events.”
Events should be requested at least 48 hours before the start of the event by completing the required form available on the Parking and Transportation Services website.
Many other projects are on the horizon for the Parking and Transportation Services department in 2022 and beyond.
More parking construction developments, such as the rehabilitation of the parking lot west of the Harmon Auxiliary Building (HAB) and a redesign of the north/northeast areas of the Shadow Lane campus, are also in the works.
For those with electric vehicles, more charging stations are coming to the Maryland and Shadow Lane campuses. The Tropicana Parking Garage, for example, was constructed to include the infrastructure for more stations.
McDowell also said that the Scarlet and Gray Lot south and west of the Thomas & Mack Center will receive new striping and sealing.
To continue to improve access to and circulation around campus, Parking and Transportation Services will also update the Parking and Transportation Master Plan within the next 6 to 9 months.