Inside the New System with Parking Director Tristian Henry
By Cayley Bowman/ Community Editor
Over the past year, USM has been going through multiple changes. From the Kiwi Bots and the new buildings all over the Portland campus to the new parking system, it seems that our school is in a new era. The Parking Director Trystan Henry gave insight to the workings of the new parking system and how it works.
Henry has been with USM for almost a year, but has worked in parking and management for almost 16 years. “As the Manager of Parking & Transportation, my job and The Department of Parking Services is responsible for managing parking facilities and services at the University of Southern Maine,” says Henry. The department of Parking Services’ aim is to provide efficient and convenient parking options for students, staff, faculty, and visitors to the campuses. The department oversees the implementation of parking policies, issues permits, and enforces parking regulations in order to maintain orderly and safe use of the parking spots. “With a focus on enhancing the parking experience, we are continuously exploring innovative solutions such as digital permits and advanced technologies like License Plate Recognition. Our goal is to ensure a positive parking experience for the university community, promoting accessibility, sustainability, and efficient use of resources and space,” says Henry. He deals with each campus of USM, Gorham, Portland, and LAC.
Over the summer, the new parking system came to be after several options and collaborative discussions were had between the parking committee, building committee, Office of Sustainability, and university leadership. “Always with an emphasis on sustainability and efficiency,” says Henry when referring to the future goals of the parking system. Since the first ever parking system from years ago, USM has seen the highest number of signups to date for a permit with the new system. “The new system employs a virtual parking solution using cameras and license plate recognition, offering users self-management and flexibility. It eliminates the need for physical permits, streamlining enforcement and user experience,” states Henry. USM decided to get rid of physical parking permits due to the desire to enhance the parking experience. “Traditionally, students would wait up to 4 weeks for a physical hangtag, often facing long lines. Gates frequently posed challenges for those entering and exiting, hindering traffic flow. Our goal was to eliminate as many barriers as possible. The new system lets users secure parking in advance, on the go, without the delay of a gate,” says Henry. The new system is designed to be used long-term, but there were initial challenges at the start. However, parking services have addressed concerns to improve the experience of the new system. Parking Services is open to feedback and potential adjustments. “In collaboration with other departments, we are always planning for the future of mobility & sustainability,” says Henry.
Another major change in the parking system is the second parking garage on the Portland campus. The entire exit route for the original garage has changed and can be difficult to navigate. “When entering the Portland campus, vehicles should use Garage 1 Abromson. After parking, they can exit through the connector lanes and then proceed to exit out of Garage 2 Portland Commons. It’s essential to note that Garage 1 is entry-only, and the specified wayfinding should always be observed upon entry. Additionally, there’s a reversible lane in the system, allowing for rerouting of traffic when signs indicate,” says Henry. The second garage is primarily for Portland Commons residents 24/7, but there is parking until 7:00 p.m. for select permit holders. Most parking lots remain unchanged after the implementation of the new system, but some alterations have been made to G20 and P6. P8 and P4 were changed completely to systems vehicles and delivery zones. “After a recent review, nearly 60 spaces have been better allocated and available for use,” shares Henry.
While this new system has had its trials and tribulations, there were significantly more complaints about the old parking system. “Previously, Parking Services would often need to assist nearly every car, sometimes for an hour multiple times a day. During our last event, only 20 parkers needed assistance, highlighting the efficiency of the new system,” says Henry. There were some cases in which residential students were being ticketed even with a registered car, but they were addressed promptly. Misunderstandings may arise, but Parking Services now has measures in place to prevent future occurrences. “The appeal process helps us review tickets. Everyone can check specific permit rules in the HONK app under ‘Active Sessions’ or online by logging in, navigating to the menu, selecting ‘parking sessions’, and then ‘permits’,” says Henry. The HONK Mobile app is what the school uses for the new parking system, but an app is not required as online access is available.
Since the new parking system has been in place, Parking Services has noticed an excess of 3,000+ uses from nonresidents. This number exceeds previous usage from the old system. If someone parks in the wrong parking lot, the license plate recognition (LPR) system identifies the vehicles and an enforcement ambassador also conducts manual checks of cars in lots. “Depending on the situation and frequency, they might receive a citation in the mail,” says Henry. Commuter students, residential students, faculty, and staff all have their usage patterns, but the new system is designed to cater to the needs of all groups that are ongoing as the parking patterns of each group are reviewed. “We hope to further refine the system based on feedback, ensuring optimal user experience. This will allow further enhancements to overall parking. Like digital guidance, reserved parking, and more,” states Henry.
The new parking system is going to take some getting used to, but Parking Services and collaborating departments have a vision for what it will be in the future. “It’s fascinating to consider that parking is a 44+ billion dollar industry in the U.S. The industry is diverse, encompassing areas like boats, drones, carshares, rideshares, buses, and more. Furthermore, parking intertwines with sectors such as hospitality, logistics, sustainability, and mobility. These facets play pivotal roles in every community, underscoring the importance and complexity of effective parking and transportation management. We at USM are committed to adopting best practices and innovative solutions, ensuring an optimal experience for our community.”