Ohio University

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Published: April 12, 2019 Author: Staff reports

Need to rent a University van for a class trip? Want a ride home after a late-night study session at the library? Looking for information on charter travel for a large University group? Want to find out where to park, and charge, your new electric vehicle on campus? You’ll find answers and support for all these questions and more at the newly reorganized Transportation and Parking Services office.

Transportation and Parking Services’ mission is to provide safe, efficient, and reliable transportation and parking for Ohio University students, faculty, staff, and guests. Transit services include daily campus shuttles, night and weekend shuttles, paratransit (accessible transit) for users with mobility limitations, and airport shuttles. They also offer charter services for group travel purposes and maintain a fleet of vehicles available for rental to support official University business and travel needs. The department manages campus parking for students, employees, visitors, and vendors. 

Previously organized and staffed as two separate entities, Transportation Services and Parking Services (TPS) have merged.  Leaders have implemented organizational changes to improve service delivery and customer service. The department is now part of the functional area overseen by Associate Vice President for University Planning and Real Estate Shawna Bolin. 

Bolin is excited to have recently-appointed director Tia Hysell steering TPS in a new direction. “Tia is a dedicated and thoughtful professional who cares deeply about the campus, her employees and feedback from customers,” Bolin said. “She approaches every challenge or task thrown her way with diligence and respect.”

Before assuming the director role at Transportation and Parking Services, Hysell served in the roles of customer service and logistics supervisor, assistant director, and interim manager. Her experience has helped equip her with the knowledge and skills to lead the department in meeting the transportation and parking needs of the University. “I have had the opportunity to dive into the operations, and delve into every aspect of what we do, through different positions here,” explained Hysell.

Transportation and Parking services are now grouped in three areas: a customer care center, led by Bridget Gilmore; planning and logistics, led by Kristen Lutz; and operations, led by Isaac Gaston. The University is completing a Transportation and Parking Master Plan to help understand and respond to campus needs. Although customers can access many transactional services like parking permit renewals and vehicle rental requests online, Transportation and Parking staff are available to help with questions and requests via phone, email, or in person at the customer care center located inside 100 Factory Street. The planning and logistics group will handle parking and transportation needs for special events, service agreements, and capital projects. The operations group will handle training of drivers and other staff, garage operations, and parking enforcement. 

Transportation and Parking Services has a staff of 20 full-time employees, along with 35 drivers who are part-time (intermittent) employees. They also employ up to 200 students who provide customer service, support transit operations, and staff special event parking.

Hysell and her team are working hard to meet the campus needs by adjusting service offerings in response to campus feedback. They are also engaged in efforts to inform the Ohio University community about the range of services TPS provides and the partnerships on campus and off. They are spreading the word about their services through meetings with departments, visiting groups, tabling at resource fairs, social media, and more. “People may not realize how diverse our services are,” Hysell said. Those services include transit options like free daily shuttle service and on-demand, late night, and weekend shuttles. 

Hysell said TPS increased transit services this past fall in response to requests from campus. “We have been listening to what campus is asking for and really applying resources to meet campus demands this year,” she said. Meeting those demands has meant adding drivers and dispatchers to handle growing shuttle ridership and adding Sunday service. Hysell said her team meets on a daily basis and works to monitor and evaluate the campus transit needs and ensure they have the resources available to meet those needs. 

“Having safe transportation available to our students, especially after-hours, is essential for the well-being of our students and the peace of mind of parents,” said Assistant Dean of Students Kathy Fahl. “The response of Transportation and Parking Services to a dramatic increase in calls for CATS Late Night in the fall 2018 semester was incredible. They responded to the demand with professionalism and speed. We are grateful to have them as campus partners.”

Usage of the campus shuttles that offer free daytime scheduled and evening, or weekend, on-demand transit service increased from 4,109 rides in fall 2017 to 18,273 rides in fall 2018. “The service has grown substantially,” said Hysell. “Our team has been working hard to ensure that we have drivers trained and ready to go.”

Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones said she appreciates how responsive Transportation and Parking has been in helping to address the issue of students feeling unsafe on campus. “They are really great partners,” Hall-Jones said. “Not only did they step up to the plate, but they were innovative about it and they are committed to being part of long-term conversation about campus safety.” Part of that conversation involves adding bystander and sexual assault prevention training to the training already in place for TPS drivers and dispatchers so they are well prepared to meet the needs of the students they serve. 

Transit offerings also extend beyond campus with Bobcat Pass, a partnership launched three years ago in partnership with the City of Athens that enables students and employees to ride Athens Public Transit free of charge with their OHIO ID. Hysell said Bobcat Pass has been very successful and has helped OHIO community members get to campus and to destinations beyond campus. To register and use the program, OHIO students and employees must simply get a sticker for tracking on the back of their ID. As of November, over 6,100 students, faculty, and staff were signed up as registered users. Bobcat Pass has provided 310,000 rides since its inception.

Jneanne Hacker, director of business and conference services for housing and residence life calls TPS a strong partner in providing essential services to OHIO students. Through that partnership, TPS collaborates with Housing and Residence Life to help ensure smooth and safe arrivals and departures around semester openings and closings. “Prior to each semester, TPS also partners with Housing and Resident Life to coordinate transportation for international students from Columbus airport to Athens to ensure that they have a welcoming experience,” said Hacker. Additionally, TPS provides transportation for students who attend OHIO Late Nights programming in the residence halls. “Over the past several years I have experienced a fundamental and positive shift towards supporting transportation enhancements and a strengthened partnership between our offices as we explore opportunities to provide the best support to our students,” Hacker noted. 

A collaboration with GoBus helps provide transportation between Ohio University’s campus and Ohio cities as far away as Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Van Wert. “We try to show people they may not even need a vehicle on campus because there are so many transportation options available to them,” Hysell noted.

Visit Transportation and Parking Service’s new and improved website for additional information on the services they provide to the Ohio University community. Questions and comments can be shared with TPS via email at tps@ohio.edu