Gated or Ungated: What is Your Enforcement Tool?


Gated or Ungated: What is Your Enforcement Tool?

Very few customers say: “I think I will park a couple of blocks away from my destination so I can get my steps in.” Generally speaking, everyone wants to park as close as possible to their destination, even in a university setting. In the mobility ecosystem, it is important to remember that parking is very rarely the final destination.

Most often, arrival time determines the distance from a parking facility to the ultimate destination. In highly competitive environments, demand-based pricing may be implemented to influence parking behavior, though it often is not used in a university environment. Meeting the needs of the various stakeholder groups requires balancing space and priorities.

Space management becomes key. Once management allocates the parking supply and determines which parker types can use which facilities, it is time to determine how to control that space. Considerations include adjacent land use and whether there are any additional destinations or activities that would put demand on the parking.

In the university environment, there are generally two options: gated facilities and ungated facilities. There are pros and cons to both options.

Ungated operations rely on the enforcement of a physical credential and require education and collections elements for those who do not comply. This tends to be a “self-park,” operation meaning little to no staff interaction is needed to assist parkers. The ungated solution has the following pros/cons:


A lower “dollar” cost to operate (technology may change this)

A system that has lower labor costs per parker

Less friction entering and exiting parking facilities

Requires fewer staff members


Less data available (technology is changing this)

A higher “lost time” cost for users searching for parking

Hard to hold parking for those who need it and expect it

Higher potential for customer fraud

More enforcement and education required

Gated operations rely on access management and require staff to assist customers who are unable to enter or exit a facility, troubleshoot equipment issues, and educate customers on how to interact with the equipment. The gated solution has the following pros/cons:


More data available to manage the use of parking supply

Lower “lost time” cost for users searching for parking

Easy to hold parking for those who need and expect it

Better access to available parking during off-peak hours


Higher labor costs per parker

Higher “dollar” cost to operate

More friction for those entering and exiting the facility

Needs a system for parkers to request a preferred parking facility over one that is available when they begin their parking relationship

Universities generally serve the following primary populations that have a variety of needs: faculty and staff, students, visitors, and service vehicles. Deciding which system to implement depends on whether reserved space is needed for certain groups of parkers. At the University for example, space needs to be reserved in a highly in-demand parking structure for dental clinic patients because they participate in a core program for the University—training the next dental professionals to serve Minnesota.

On a university campus, pedestrian access is also key. With a multitude of destinations like classes, offices, study spaces, and dining establishments, the campus core needs to be designed for the mass movement of people multiple times per day. This generally results in the design and placement of parking facilities on the campus boundary edges and means that while there is ample parking capacity, it is not necessarily close to a desired destination.

Educating customers on the competing interests may help reduce customer complaints as they wait to have access to park in their preferred location.

Overall, because of the various customer types and mission-related needs, gated operations tend to work better at our University because they allow maximum flexibility, control of the space, and changes in space allocation by parker type can be made in real-time to support the dynamic needs of our campus.

Ross Allanson, CAPP, CPP, is Director of Parking & Transportation Services at University of Minnesota. He can be reached at

Article contributed by:
Ross Allanson
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