Privatization of Ohio State University’s Parking System


Privatization of Ohio State University’s Parking System

As a university parking director, when I was first approached in 2011 with the concept that The Ohio State University was going to monetize their parking through a private concession, I was skeptical. My immediate reaction was that it would be impossible to carve out boundaries and clearly articulate roles and responsibilities to ensure accountability for a private third party to operate a parking system within a large university. The other prominent concern I had at the time was that all a potential investor would care about was money, so poor decisions would be made in the interest of the almighty dollar.  

Without a vibrant campus, people will not drive to Ohio State.

I was wrong on all counts. Nearly a decade later, both the university and CampusParc have worked and continue to effectively work together to manage an incredibly dynamic parking system for a large urban campus, including all the related tasks that support that effort. It is working due to a handful of important reasons: 


• Clear goals for privatization

The Ohio State University monetized their parking as an innovative way to support their academic mission. 

Today, Ohio State’s focus is now on the key business efforts for a major university rather than infrastructure items such as parking. Through this arrangement, the university gained a partner in CampusParc that focuses solely on parking and related mobility issues, brings a long-term view to solutions, and can be agile as needed to make change happen quickly. CampusParc provides the parking expertise, recommendations, implementation and facilities management, completely removing that responsibility from the university.  

Through the concession, Ohio State has also avoided the many risks inherent in operating and maintaining parking. These benefits of course showed up prominently during 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic.


• An agile and dynamic partnership

Who would have imagined a pandemic would create a situation where the campus parking that is normally bursting at the seams would sit empty for more than 12 months? The Concession Agreement sheltered the university from the impacts of operating empty parking facilities, yet our partners at the university still retained full control over the parking rules. 

Long-term partnerships – in our case, 50 years – also offer advantages, particularly when there is a solid and collaborative working relationship. In the same way CampusParc must understand the university’s needs and goals, they begin to understand our needs. This enables both partners to execute plans quickly and effectively. As conditions changed rapidly during 2020, new parking rules were necessary to meet customer needs – and CampusParc and the university worked seamlessly to assess those needs, identify and then implement solutions that addressed the front-line health worker concerns while creating and maintaining a safe environment. The university also assisted CampusParc by approving our streamlined operational activities during that pandemic to limit our expenditures.

As with any long-term relationship, there may be disconnects. Contract language can be interpreted differently and a lack of process can occasionally lead to short-term confusion. But this also provides opportunities to explore and document processes for future initiatives. Thanks to regular communication, a confidence in one another’s abilities, a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities and trust built over time through actions, we have demonstrated a partnership that works quickly together toward a compromise.  


• Financial benefits to both parties

To date, as reported by the university, the $483 million that CampusParc paid Ohio State to operate the concession has grown as an investment to $651 million, resulting in total distributions of more than $200 million for teaching, learning, research, transportation, and sustainability initiatives.

CampusParc is an investment that happens to operate parking, but it is not true that our focus is solely on returning value to the shareholders to the detriment of the university parking system. In fact, I didn’t believe this balance was possible until I was charged with ensuring it occurred as the leader of CampusParc, so I can understand the skepticism. However, while we take our obligations to our investors quite seriously, and have delivered on those expectations thus far, we can only continue to meet those obligations when the university also succeeds. 

Without a vibrant campus, people will not drive to Ohio State. A lack of drivers, who typically park on campus, would negatively impact our revenues. The university works hard to provide best-in-class facilities, classes and an overall excellent experience. While no one comes to the university simply to park, because it is the first and last experience for those who drive to campus, it sets the tone for the visit. A poor experience can contribute to a lack of desire to return. 


• A positive customer experience

For this reason, CampusParc has an obligation to ensure university customers have a positive experience, which we work hard to make happen daily. We train our staff to be knowledgeable and helpful, and use fact-based decision-making to establish a track record of trust and dedication to the university’s faculty, students, staff and visitors. For instance, CampusParc Customer Care provides one-on-one assistance to nearly 50,000 customer calls and 40,000 emails annually, and a recent survey of the CampusParc call center revealed that 78 percent of respondents rated the staff high in the categories of knowledgeable, helpful and engaging.

We have introduced new technologies to the campus parking customers to help them understand, in real-time, the parking rules for their parking location, new technology in garages that enhance the customer experience, and a website that is optimized to serve customer needs – from purchasing a permit that best suits their individual situation or finding parking in real-time, to paying a citation.

Parking at Ohio State should be seamless, easy and efficient for the customer, and it is in our best interest, as well as that of our university partners, to provide that experience.  

Sarah Blouch is President and CEO of CampusParc at the Ohio State University. She can be reached at


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Sarah Blouch
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