By Adam King
The irony that several garages across campus had access issues for pass holders early Feb. 15 was not lost on the trio of CampusParc and LAZ Parking officials who had come to Drinko Hall later that day to talk, in part, about the improvement in the parking operations.
A system failure shut down garage access for about half an hour at several locations, including the 9th Avenue East and West Garages.
“It’s one of those things that periodically will happen, and how we should be measured is how quickly we respond to it,” said Steve Gresh, regional vice president for LAZ Parking, the operating partner of Queensland Investment Corp., which paid $483 million for a 50-year lease of Ohio State’s parking operations.
Together, LAZ and QIC formed CampusParc to oversee the lease locally.
Gresh noted that the current system has been in place 20 years, which he said is near to the end of the expected functional life for that kind of equipment. After seeing some issues early on when CampusParc took over operations Sept. 21, the parking vendor has invested $1 million upgrading equipment and plans for more.
3M Corp., which purchased the manufacturer of the current technology that controls the head-in process — the opening and closing of gates from a central server — is testing a new web-based platform with greater system integrity, Gresh said. If testing is successful, LAZ Parking plans to install the technology, though Gresh could not say when that might happen.
After a rough first month where pay machines and parking arms often failed, the parking officials said their metrics continue to improve. Their goal is to maintain a “good to excellent” customer parking experience.
Richelle Simonson, the general manager of CampusParc and one of seven former OSU employees to work for the new vendor, said she had experienced the magnitude of such a transition only two other times — during the renovation of Ohio Stadium and the opening of the Schottenstein Center.
“It was a lot of late nights, trying to understand what was happening, trying to identify problems and understand relationships across campus to facilitate a solution,” said Simonson, who previously worked for Facilities Operations and Development.
In the final nine days of September after the transition, only 56 percent of the parking equipment on average was functional, Simonson said. In October that improved to 78 percent and has steadily increased since: 85 percent in November and 95 percent in December.
“This was a high priority and we are getting better,” Simonson said. “We still think we can move up from 95 percent as we stabilize the system and roll out new equipment. We have a plan to aggressively go after garage improvements as we free up money to address the issues.”
Simonson said the company also is improving its response time to phone calls made to its customer service line at 688-0000. In October callers waited an average of four minutes and 31 seconds before someone answered the phone. “That wasn’t going to work for the expectations of the customers, the university or LAZ Parking,” she said.
The wait time dropped to 2:39 in November and 1:43 in December. “That’s something that I would call adequate. It’s not excellent,” Simonson said.
The vendor has been quick to respond to e-mail sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, averaging a 96 to 98 percent turnaround within 24 hours.
A noticeable change was CampusParc replaced booth attendants, instead using up to 20 roving “ambassadors” who can answer questions and interact with customers rather than having a person that merely processes a transaction.
“We wanted to come into the parking system and look at it with fresh eyes,” said CampusParc President Sarah Blouch, the former director of OSU’s Transportation and Parking. “There’s not a dramatic shift in the physical system, but there really is in the operating