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Winter Snow and Parking

Bruce Barclay

Looking out at the almost whiteout conditions on the runways at Salt Lake City International Airport, I am amazed that the planes have clearance to take off and land. Weather-wise, we have been extremely fortunate this winter compared to the Northeast, Midwest, and even the Southern U.S. Until this morning, Salt Lake City had less than 7 inches of snow this meteorological winter, defined as December through February. We average about 56 inches of snow each winter. The winter of 2014-15 will go down as the warmest and least snowy meteorological winter since records have been kept dating back to the 1870s.

We often underestimate the effect of snow and freezing rain on our facilities. The effort that goes into clearing the runways, roadways, and parking lots to keep the airport safe and open is critical and often goes unnoticed. The mobilization of huge snow brooms to clear snow from the runways is like watching a symphony perform. Each instrument knows its role and performs admirably. Without a clean runway, planes cannot take off or land, essentially shutting the airport down.

The challenges facing parking facilities are similar. If parkers cannot gain access into the lots, they cannot board the shuttles to the terminals and therefore cannot board the planes. Cars park for days at a time at an airport. The additional labor involved clearing a parking lot that is near capacity poses an additional concern. Wind rows that are formed as plows go behind parked vehicles are difficult to deal with during freeze/thaw scenarios. Small cars have a difficult time maneuvering over built-up snow and ice in the lot. If enough snow has accumulated, the additional challenge of snow removal from the lot comes into the equation. Many areas of New England have more than 100 inches of standing snow. Much of that will be there until the spring thaw.

The challenges facing a university or municipality are quite similar. If the roads are not cleared prior to morning rush, workers and shoppers cannot get into the central business district. Surface parking lots need to be cleared of snow and ice to facilitate parking. Adequate chemicals need to be on hand to facilitate the melting of ice and snow. Walkways and sidewalks need to be cleared for pedestrians, especially on college campuses where many students walk between their dorms and classes.

Although the snow will only last a short while today, it is refreshing to get back into winter mode, mobilize our snow desk, and deal with the cleanup of the runways, roadways, and parking facilities. There are other parts of the country that remain inundated with snow and are in much worse shape than Salt Lake City.

Fixing Broken Windows

Isaiah Mouw

I’ve listened to several speakers validate a common criminological theory–”fixing broken windows.” This was introduced by James Wilson and George Kelling in 1982, and proposed that monitoring and maintaining urban environments in a well-ordered condition (i.e., no broken windows or other signs of chaos) will prevent further vandalism and even more serious crime. In other words, an effective and simple way to prevent vandalism and other crime in your garage is “fixing the broken windows”–keeping the garage well maintained and clean, changing out defective light bulbs immediately, etc.

While to some this may smack of environmental determinism, Kelling has plenty of research that supports his revolutionary–yet simple–notion: if people are cued to understand that breaking the rules is tolerated in a certain environment, they’re more likely to break the rules in that environment. Kelling, in fact, was given the opportunity to provide a real-life demonstration of his theory when he was hired as a consultant for the New York City Transit Authority in 1985. His theory, implemented by David Gunn, aggressively targeted small crimes such as fare dodging and graffiti tagging while improving the overall atmosphere of the subways. The result, according to a 2001 crime study, is that crime fell suddenly and significantly and continued to drop over the next decade.

If you allow graffiti to remain in your facility for a long time, you can expect more graffiti to come your way. If you are slow to changing out lights, you can expect break-ins to continue. In a 2013 IPI Conference & Expo presentation, The Art of Parking, speaker Jeff Petry explained that placing art on different levels in one particular garage eliminated graffiti and biologicals altogether. In a garage where graffiti was common, simply adding art stopped graffiti and urination in those areas completely.

This is not advocating that security is not needed. But remember that keeping your garage clean, maintained, well-lit, and fixing the other broken windows of your parking facility is doing more for your facility than simply looking nice.





The Magic of Transitional Places

L. Dennis Burns

Parking facilities are not merely temporary storage facilities for automobiles. They are also the interface or transition between the vehicular and pedestrian experience.

These modal intersections can be much more than utilitarian connection points. Consider train stations, which we associate with spectacular building forms and public areas. Union Station in Washington, D.C. and Grand Central Station in New York City come to mind as traditional examples. These environments are much more than simple transportation connection points; they have a special energy and excitement. In them, we transition from one point to another and there is a certain excitement related to movement, exploring new environments, the anticipation of a specific event, and the unknowns of a new place. All of these elements combine to create a special vitality. These places can capture and enhance the positive and magical elements that go along with being in the mode of journeying.

There are also many examples of how poorly-designed or maintained transitional places can lead to feelings of uncertainty, trepidation, and even fear. These types of experiences can have a dramatic effect on the overall experience, even if the final destination met all expectations.

Parking facilities are probably the most numerous and undervalued modal intersection points in the world. We should take a fresh look our facilities and how the experiences we generate have a direct bearing on businesses and functions that depend on us as their customer gateways.

Take a critical look at your parking facilities and re-imagine them as community gateways, designed to meet the special needs of sojourners transitioning from one mode of travel to another. The more we take on the ownership of our limited but critical segment of the journey, the more we enhance our value to our customers and our communities.

How are you enhancing your facility as a community gateway?