A New Take on Accessible University Parking
By Melissa Marie Maraj
In 2011, Texas A&M University’s Transportation Services commissioned Kimley-Horn & Associates to conduct an accessible parking study that could be used to help justify a new concept for determining the location of parking spaces for the disabled on college and university campuses.
Using the traditional approach of designing spaces into each lot to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) often resulted in parking spaces built in locations inconvenient to where patrons needed them. Furthermore, the traditional approach didn’t require enough ADA spaces in small parking lots near accessible paths and building entrances.
The university, together with a design consulting firm, proposed considering the entire College Station campus as the “planning site,” and then segregated it into smaller geographical zones. These zones grouped individually defined parking areas on campus in a logical fashion.
After that, using the 2012 Texas Accessibility Standards (TAS) guidelines and requirements, the planners used each zone’s individually defined parking areas to calculate total accessible parking for each zone. Using this methodology, a well-balanced and widespread supply of accessible parking could be provided for the entire campus. If each lot were considered individually, the required accessible parking spaces could, in theory, be placed anywhere on campus (within reason).
Following the traditional guidelines was meeting the TAS requirements, but it was not meeting the needs of TAMU patrons. Using the zonal approach, the required accessible parking in each zone would be placed closest to the accessible entrances and paths within the zone’s area. This approach provides the intended outcome: to give greater access to buildings and facilities for parkers with ADA accessibility needs. This approach also gives a logical framework to adding accessible parking required by future projects.
The study was completed in 2012. In 2013, Texas A&M took the results of the study to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR), the agency responsible for ensuring adherence to federal regulations for parking for the disabled, to request consideration for implementing the zonal approach, instead of adhering to the traditional approach mentioned.
The agency indicated that it was pleased with the research and the intended outcome of the proposal. And it approved the university’s request to implement the zonal approach, with the provision that Texas A&M would ensure that all ADA spaces across the campus were modified to meet the 2012 TAS requirements within three years.
Throughout the project, TAMU Transportation Services will have added or reallocated 124 ADA spaces and renovated at least as many. This project is significant not only because of the great improvement it made in the accessibility of our campus, but also because the TDLR now uses the zonal approach for other campuses and similar entities as a benchmark and standard for best practices.
We at TAMU Transportation Services are pleased that this concept was able to reach beyond the boundaries of our campus and community to make improvements across the state.
Melissa Marie Maraj is Communications Manager, Transportation Services, at Texas A&M University.
Contact her at email@example.com.