April 5, 2002

Plan seeks parking solutions

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Plan seeks parking solutions

Since late last year new clinic construction next door to Medical Center East has claimed roughly 16 percent of spaces in the VUH parking garage. The project for a time seriously disrupted pedestrian routes from the garage to the hospital and to the clinics in Medical Center East and the Medical Arts Building. Construction has also shut down an entrance to the garage, causing congestion at the remaining entrance on 22nd Avenue directly across from the hospital.

Ken Browning, director of plant services, was tapped over a year ago to lead a group to solve a previous parking crunch at the VUH garage and to develop a long-term parking plan for the medical center. Last fall saw the success of short-term solutions, ending what had become the daily diversion of cars from the VUH garage to Capers. But not many months passed before the start of clinic construction created these new problems.

In an interview Browning outlined measures that are helping Vanderbilt better accommodate patients and visitors as construction continues at the VUH garage.

Portions of the first and second floors of the garage are now reserved each day to allow valets—employed by Central Parking Corporation, the medical center’s parking vendor—to “stack” up to 600 cars at a time, which nets an extra 150 spaces, accommodating an extra 375 cars per day (the garage’s daytime turnover rate is 2.5). With stacking, the garage is accommodating only slightly less volume than before construction began.

Approximately 80 percent of early-arriving patients and visitors opt for the free valet service. Each morning as all self-parking spaces are filled valets begin serving all arrivals.

Construction has closed the top level of the garage, and for a time it also closed the central stairs leading from lower levels of the garage to the top level. The two elevators that serve the garage were inundated because suddenly, with the start of valet stacking, there were more parkers on lower levels of the garage and fewer routes to MCE, or to the top of the garage to cross to VUH or to the Medical Arts Building.

Attendants have been posted in all four elevator lobbies and on the elevators themselves, and they use radio communications to route the elevators. The system is effective in minimizing the wait.

The garage’s central stairway has been replaced with a temporary wooden stairway, and two temporary elevators will be installed in this space by mid-April. Attendants will steer visitors who are bound for the hospital and for the Medical Arts Building to these new elevators, freeing the established elevators for visitors to MCE.

With the start of valet parking a few cars were occasionally still diverted to Capers, not for a lack of an open space, but rather because the closing of the other garage entrance, combined with the unavoidable traffic slowdown associated with the valet service, caused momentary traffic snarls at the 22nd Avenue entrance. Recent expansion of the valet service has alleviated this problem.

Areas reserved for daytime stacking are kept open overnight to ensure that they’ll be available early the next morning, and this is creating a capacity problem at night. Staff with overnight parking privileges in the hospital garage sometimes find themselves shut out, so they’ve now been given the option of parking in the TVC garage (7 p.m.-7 a.m.). It was also recently announced that night and weekend parking rules will be more strictly enforced; cars with permits for Capers, 25th Avenue, and shuttle lots found in the hospital garage during nights and weekends are being ticketed, and if found with three or more outstanding tickets, are booted or towed.

The construction also involves intermittent temporary closures of spaces on lower levels of the garage. In light of this further drain on parking capacity, additional measures are planned to lower demand and keep the garage open for patients and visitors. Staff and faculty are asked to direct any so-called commercial visitors to Capers or the 25th Avenue garage. It turns out that a substantial number of drug reps, equipment vendors and other commercial visitors park in the hospital garage each day, at a rate of $8 per day (patients and visitors park for free). Vanderbilt is considering raising the rates for these parkers at both the VUH and TVC garages to $5 per hour, hoping to drive them to cheaper parking at other campus garages. The rate hike may open another 60 to 125 spaces in the VUH garage, accommodating 75 to 150 more patients and visitors per day. If commercial rates in the two garages are raised, it will entail creating better controls over the parking validation process (today parkers can self-validate in the hospital lobby).

Another measure under consideration is expanding the valet parking service at the entrance to the hospital and parking these cars at Capers. If approved, this solution could go into effect this month.

Staff and faculty are invited to address parking concerns and questions by e-mail to Gene Ornes, director of medical center traffic and parking, gene.ornes@mcmail.vanderbilt.edu.

VUMC long-term parking plan

Here’s a summary of some of the main points in the long-term parking plan for VUMC.

• A new parking garage is planned near the center of the VUMC campus, between the hospital garage and the clinic garage.

• A way-finding system is planned. Parking garages will be renamed and large signs will extend over 21st Avenue and Blakemore Avenue on both sides of the main VUMC campus entrances. Signs within garages will make it easy to find one’s way to the appropriate clinic and back to the car.

• TVC patient parking will move to Capers (clinic patients bound for MCN, MCE and MAB will continue to use the VUH garage). The switch will follow installation of the new way-finding system, and will involve patient shuttles between Capers and TVC. Clinics will prepare patients with detailed street directions from point of departure to parking and to clinic locations. A walking bridge will connect Capers with the back of TVC, which will be reconfigured as the new main entrance to the building.

• The TVC garage will be used by physicians, and by clinic patients with special needs.

• Some staff will soon have to vacate Capers and move to the new 25th Avenue garage; as the months go by, increasing numbers of staff will need to vacate Capers.

• The Vanderbilt University campus master plan puts limits on construction of new parking garages. Within 10 years, as traffic grows and existing surface lots are taken over by new buildings, the medical center will need 8,000 new parking spaces. Given this mounting pressure, VUMC is considering free staff and faculty off-campus parking coupled with shuttle service and security. A number of locations are under consideration.