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Parking and Transportation offers alternatives, solutions to commuting

Published May 16, 2019

Coffee. Breakfast. Catch a ride or find a parking space. For tens of thousands of people – students, faculty and employees – this is how a weekday typically starts out at Cal State Long Beach.

Unknown to most, there’s a lot of work that goes in to making sure people with various transportation needs can safely get to and from campus each day. There’s even more to do, by helping commuters to avail themselves of environmentally-friendly options and reducing congestion on the streets leading to and from the university.

Parking and Transportation Services is continually evolving to meet campus transportation needs, serving people who drive, while also offering alternatives to keep cars off the road. The department is a leader in the higher education world when it comes to sustainability. It was the first in the California State University system to use paperless parking permits and has also embraced EV charging stations and low-emissions vehicles.

Commuter vehicles are the campus’ most significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions, so the department is committed to accommodating electric vehicles and providing commuters with alternatives to driving.

As recently as fall 2017, Parking and Transportation Services installed 40 EV charging stations, giving the campus 44 places where students, faculty and employees who drive electrical vehicles can recharge their vehicles for free.

Parking and Transportation services also offers free shuttle rides connecting students and employees to points around campus. The Beachside and Los Coyote shuttles, respectively, carry riders off campus to Beachside College housing and the Traffic Circle neighborhood, where many students live. The campus and Long Beach Transit have also provided free bus rides to students, faculty and staff who obtain U-Pass TAP stickers for their campus IDs.

The department’s sustainability initiatives have proven to be popular. Over 2017-18, electric vehicle drivers obtained more than 47,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, which is about as much power as 4.5 households consume in a year.

Also in 2017-18, U-Pass participants took about 1.15 million bus rides while Parking and Transportation Services provided some 22,500 hours of shuttle service. What’s more, the campus fuels its shuttles with reclaimed compressed natural gas sourced from landfills or farms. This results in the shuttles’ carbon emissions being about 70 percent less than would be the case than if the campus used gasoline- or diesel-fueled vehicles.

The department also has an agreement with LA Metro allowing students to purchase discounted passes for bus and light rail lines.

Sustainability programs accounted for nearly 18 percent of Parking and Transportation Service’s $12.8 million worth of expenses over the 2017-18 fiscal year. Surface parking and parking structures also require significant spending. Parking and Transportation Services spent a little more than a quarter of its budget last year on lot renovation, and another quarter of its spending went to paying construction loans taken out to build Palo Verde Avenue parking structures. The loans are scheduled to be paid off in 2035.

Combined, more than two thirds of the department’s costs are related to parking facilities and sustainability initiatives.

The majority of Parking and Transportation Services’ revenues – some 80 percent – is income from commuters who buy parking permits. Cal State Long Beach charges $280 per academic year for student parking permits, which is the fifth-lowest amount among all 23 CSU campuses. With more than 14,000 parking spaces, Cal State Long Beach has the second-highest number of on-campus parking spaces in the CSU system.

Although Parking and Transportation Services receives some support for its shuttles from Student Excellence Fees and the campus’ general fund, those dollars account for only 2 percent of its income. In other respects, Parking and Transportation Services is self-supported.

Parking and Transportation’s revenues, however, do not match the costs of its full spectrum of services. Outflow exceeded income by nearly $800,000 in Fiscal 2017-18, and the deficit is projected to grow to $1.8 million by the end of the current fiscal year. Absent corrective action, a structural deficit is forecasted to remain a persistent problem for the foreseeable future, and the department would run out of funds and be forced to enact significant service cuts during the 2021-22 budget year.

The department’s leaders are presently developing several reforms to bring revenues in line with current and future needs, which include repairs to surface lots and the continuing support for sustainability programs. Updates to Parking and Transportation Services’ practices and price structures are scheduled to be announced in late summer, before the beginning of the 2019 Fall term.