Integrated Parking Permit Solution at the University of SheffieldImproving service standards, maximising efficiency and simplifying the process

With 50 academic departments, more than 26,300 students, nearly 7,250 members of staff and 2,000 parking spaces in and around the city centre, the transport and parking challenges facing  the University of Sheffield are considerable. The efficient and reliable allocation and management of all parking permits has, not surprisingly, proved to be quite an undertaking for the University's Estates and Facilities Management team. Travel Planner Darren Hardwick has now turned to Open Parking to provide a comprehensive and integrated permit management and parking service to reinforce the University's sustainable transport and travel strategy.

"We are, first and foremost a centre of academic excellence and not a car park operator," says Darren. "Our priority is to provide the best possible customer service and the best possible experience for staff and students alike. So it's important we manage things fairly in every respect and we have to be absolutely sure that the issue of any Parking Charge Notice is fully justified while, of course, making sure that we minimise any abuse of parking rights and facilities.

Sheffield University Car Parking RD18 2

"Open Parking's experience is now providing us with a management service that harnesses the benefits of reliable real time data with the advantages of smartphone technology and dedicated handheld software.  This is enabling us to improve service standards, maximising the efficiency of needs-based assessments and simplifying the allocation of all types of permits.  It's also providing accuracy and assurances in all enforcement activities.  As a result we now have a truly integrated and responsive permit solution which is proving to be both effective and popular."

The solution is based on the Permit Gateway permit management system, the 3sixty enforcement system and the Rialto handheld software from Imperial. Initially hosted on the University servers, the service is now a fully hosted solution at Open Parking's datacentre.  

OP Sheff 2 L R Sheffield University's Darren Hardwick With Open Parkings Doug Woodhouse 2

The University of Sheffield was one of the first centres of further education to develop and adopt a comprehensive transport policy covering different travel options, sustainability, parking management and permits for staff and students.  The new permit solution has enabled the university to adopt a sophisticated needs-based assessment procedure for efficient evaluation of all permit allocations, including a tiered charging arrangement for different permit categories where costings are aligned to comparable public transport costs. The University's concerted approach to travel and transport has been a great success, with a significant reduction in single occupancy cars and a 50% decrease in the number of staff travelling by car. 

"Demand for permits continues to far exceed availability, but all of the revenue derived from the University's permits and pay and display parking facilities is ring-fenced and used to promote its sustainable transport policy," adds Open Parking's Doug Woodhouse. 

"Consequently, we've worked closely with Darren and his colleagues to deliver a comprehensive, convenient and reliable way of managing the application process and the detailed eligibility criteria for permits.  It has been just as important, though, to ensure staff and students can see the practical benefits of the University's transport policy and commitment to sustainability. 

"As an integrated web-based solution, the new system has greatly simplified the application process for everyone.  The merits of the assessment arrangements and preferential charging rates are now self-evident.  What's more the new solution is helping to minimise the mis-use of permits, and all data captured from permit applications is providing a wealth of information to help the University constantly refine its transport and travel strategy."

The University's eight Campus Wardens patrol just over 100 car parks around the centre of the city.  Their former handheld terminals have now been replaced with smartphones so there is no need to upload handheld data at the end of each day, as all information is uploaded automatically and accessible in real-time.  This eliminates any delays in accessing information so the Facilities Management Help Desk team is able to address any queries or issues instantly. 

The smartphones are also personalised for each warden so they can be used as a telephone and to access their emails and University Google account.  It's also easy for warning messages to be issued and for the wardens to report any maintenance or signage issues identified while they are on patrol.

As well as becoming a service hosted by Open Parking, plans are now also progressing to enable the University to take advantage of Open Parking's cashless parking solution (PaySmarti) and its dedicated voucher management solution for visitors, VoucherSmarti.

"The challenges that faced Darren and his colleagues are similar to the issues facing many other major campus developments around the country", adds Open Parking's Business Development Manager, Leighton Ponting. "It's not easy to find the right balance when the demand for parking far outstrips resources and when the priorities of many different audiences needs careful evaluation while maintaining a positive customer experience at all times. The University now has the benefit of a flexible and user-friendly solution that's integrated fully with its HR/payroll and enforcement systems and which will now evolve in tandem with the University's travel and transport policy for staff, students and visitors."

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