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Oversales - selling more parking than you have spaces

September 17, 2014

I started my last bog post with the comment “the best made plans of mice and bloggers…” now I’m feeling like “if a butterfly flaps its wings does that mean you run out of parking spaces”.

During the second week of classes we encountered “lot full” scenarios in B & C Lot. Many users were frustrated asking why Parking Services sold more permits than there were parking spaces. In fall 2013 we engaged in a comprehensive review of parking and adjusted parking rates and structure to better deal with existing parking supply/demand on campus and an anticipated “parking crunch”.

Did we get our calculations wrong? No. What we didn’t expect was the labour dispute between the BC Government and teachers. That’s right – a teachers strike affected parking on campus. 300 education student and faculty members that we expected to be teaching/learning out in the community were instead now on campus. Parking availability in Fall 2013 was fine, with more or less the same sales in Fall 2014 we ran out of parking in those two lots because of this unanticipated event.

But why do we oversell? Simple – efficient use of parking spaces. (Overselling means selling more parking permits than there are spaces in a parking lot)

If we have a 500 space parking lot, and we only sell 500 permits, there are going to be significantly less than 500 cars there at any given time. Sick leave, vacation, working from home, non-standard working hours: these are all reasons why someone who purchased a parking permit may not be in their parking space. In a University environment the reasons increase to: class scheduling, exam scheduling, field schools, sabbaticals, etc. etc.

The industry standard is 20% - 40% oversales. The more students/faculty in a lot, the more we can oversell (because of variations in student class schedules).

On a percentage basis, the larger the lot the more true this is. A 10 space parking lot may alternate between being completely full and completely empty depending on who is away and when (so we would not oversell a 10 space lot). The larger the lot the more the law of averages comes into play: at SFU we find the sweet spot at 500+ spaces.

This helps in the following ways:
1) A 500 space lot, as opposed to 5X 100 space lots, mean we can actually accommodate 600 – 700 vehicles. More “bang for our buck” from both a construction and maintenance standpoint.

2) Because of the “bang for the buck”, we can keep costs lower and therefore keep prices lower.

3) Because we are using less campus space for parking, we have more space on campus for classrooms, student buildings, etc.

So our sales calculations are accurate for a normal scenario, and when the strike is over and education faculty & students are back in the community, we will be back to normal in our parking lots.

Pricing, Rules & Regulations, Planning