Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. All too often, we continue with old practices while not being satisfied with the outcome or worse, we can’t bring ourselves to change something even though we know that there has to be a better way. In my last few posts, I’ve focused on topics that universities may consider if they’re not satisfied with the same old results: angry parking customers, financially-strapped parking departments, and too much parking demand and congestion. In the first post, I discussed permit allocation systems and in the second, centralization of parking and transportation functions. In this installment, I’ll take on the topic of organizational alignment.
Parking programs at most universities started in the public safety department because the main activity in the early days of campus parking management was issuing parking citations. Since then, parking has become more complex and demanding and now requires unique expertise and an overarching focus on service delivery and a business-like mentality. No longer are parking programs maintained—they are managed with great care, effort, and singular focus. And as parking programs have grown and evolved, so too have the demands placed on university public safety officials. To burden public safety departments with parking duties while security responsibilities grow seems counterproductive.
Affinities require a close working relationship between public safety and parking departments especially with regard to emergency management and special event operations. But direct oversight of parking by public safety is no longer considered a best practice; this is said with the greatest respect for university chiefs of police and public safety directors. Instead, aligning parking under finance and administration or student services produces better customer service and promotes financial stability. Though most universities are moving away from a public safety alignment, a few outliers are considering moving parking under public safety likely out of a need to shore up their security budgets using parking revenue. But if universities wish to improve their parking programs, public safety budget challenges must be solved elsewhere and an organizational alignment should be chosen for parking that promotes customer service and a strategic business approach.