January 11, 2002

Wilkerson Center alters parking system

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Construction of the Bill Wilkerson Center, an eight-story building atop the VUH Garage between the Oxford House and Medical Center East on 21st Avenue South, began in December.

Wilkerson Center alters parking system

Garage Full.

These words often cause feelings of heightened anxiety for many patients and visitors to Vanderbilt University Medical Center and to The Vanderbilt Clinic. Navigating unfamiliar streets surrounding the Medical Center to locate available parking creates an additional stress.

To help alleviate this problem, VUMC developed a long-range plan to meet the needs of patient, visitors and hospital staff using the Vanderbilt University Hospital Parking Garage.

The plan will begin with monthly users of the VUH Garage receiving letters detailing the changes in parking availability in the often-overfilled parking facility.

About 175 physician and limited-mobility employees with full-time parking privileges will move to the Capers Avenue Garage beginning Jan. 19. This change is due in part to the pending construction of the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center for Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences and the Musculoskeletal Institute. It also is an effort to free up additional parking spaces in the busy VUH Garage for patients and visitors.

“Our top priority is accommodating our patients,” said Ken Browning, director of Plant Services. “Everybody is interested in making everything better for patients. With everyone wanting to use the parking facility it makes it very difficult sometimes for our patients to find adequate parking.”

Nearly four months in development, the parking plan has input from various areas of the Vanderbilt community including physicians, administration, Space and Facilities Planning, and Traffic and Parking. The group studied many alternatives for parking solutions to determine the best one that will meet the needs of the patients and VUMC employees and physicians.

“We really have looked at everyone’s ideas when developing schemes to address the impact the new Bill Wilkerson Center will have,” Browning said. “But when we talk about parking, we look at the long-range plan. It’s necessary as Vanderbilt grows to have parking needs projections. This is all a part of that overall plan.”

Construction of the Bill Wilkerson Center, an eight-story building atop the VUH Garage between the Oxford House and Medical Center East on 21st Avenue South, began in December. In preparation for that, the surface where the building will be erected has begun to be cleared.

Beginning Feb. 15 patients will see detour signs routing drivers to Dixie Place, off 21st Avenue South into the VUH Parking Garage onto level P-2. Previously a one-way venue, traffic will be reversed on Dixie Place to allow for easier access to the garage. The drop-off and pick-up area utilized by patients on P-1 will be moved to P-2 for added convenience.

Throughout various periods of construction there will be sections within the VUH Parking Garage that will be closed. Browning is asking for everyone’s help and patience during the duration of the construction project.

“We will lose 270 parking spaces at the peak of the Bill Wilkerson construction project,” Browning said. “I know people will wonder how moving 175 full-time parkers will accommodate for 270 spaces. It’s because we get a turn ratio. All of our visitors are not here all day so a space is used twice a day.

“We also realize that some days the garage will fill up and we will have to divert traffic to the TVC and Capers. But we are enhancing our shuttle service. This includes building a couple of bus stops to provide covered protection for our shuttle riders. We hope that diversions will be limited, but we want to be prepared.”

Browning said in anticipation of these changes, Central Parking staffers have attended training sessions to help direct traffic as well as serve as information agents, providing customer service to visitors.

Also, visitors can take advantage of the free valet parking for hospital and clinic use. The service, which has been operational since 1999, can be accessed at the entry of the hospital as well as the clinic.

Beginning this month the valet service will be enhanced to include a new program in the VUH Garage called the “Outpatient Valet” service. The new program, featuring a drive-up lane inside the garage near the Medical Center East elevators, will provide vehicle valet for outpatients who wish to have their cars parked by the parking staff.

The long-range VUMC parking plan ultimately calls for the VUH Garage to be used for patient parking only. The clinic garage will be used for physician parking and special needs parking. The Capers Garage will be used for Children’s Hospital, TVC patient parking and staff parking, while the 25th Avenue Garage will continue to be used by staff only.

“Sometime in the next 12 months we will need to begin construction on additional garage capacity between VUH and TVC,” Browning said. “The area around the Oxford House has the ability to create about 200 parking spaces. The next logical step would be to tear down the Oxford House and complete the parking structure, allowing for 300 more spaces.”

Browning said stage 3 of that plan would eliminate Medical Center South and the space behind the TVC to provide space for an additional 700 parking spaces. These scenarios involve relocating the tenants in both buildings, especially as space becomes available in Medical Center North upon the completion of MRB III.

“Although there are some scenarios that have yet to be worked out, we have developed plans to meet the current and upcoming parking demands,” Browning said. “We don’t have all the answers today, but we are always working towards that.”

The current parking projections carry the Medical Center into 2005.