Construction on Cannon Drive began on Sept. 5 and has uprooted medical center staff and football fans from two heavily used parking lots: Polo and Dodd. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

Ohio State began its major construction project on Cannon Drive Sept. 5, a road running from Woody Hayes Drive to King Avenue near Ohio Stadium and the Wexner Medical Center — two prominent university destinations. The construction has uprooted medical center staff and football fans from the two heavily used parking lots: Polo and Dodd, which has disrupted employee commutes and gameday traffic.

Medical center employees and football fans now park in the Buckeye and Carmack lots on Fred Taylor Drive and West Campus, respectively. The distance from Cannon Drive to the Buckeye Lot is about 2 miles. The distance from Cannon Drive to the Carmack Road is roughly 1 mile.

Thomas Rousey, a medical center employee, said he parked in the lots on Cannon Drive before the closures. His parking location has moved to a Carmack lot. Rousey compared parking there to “essentially stalking people to get a spot.”

“My opinion? When they knew they were making this deal, they should have had everything already together,” he said. Rousey said he feels like the parking accommodations were “last minute, Gorilla Glue slapped together” ideas. For now, he said he will take the bus from the Carmack Lot to the medical center.

The $51.6 million project has three phases and is currently in Phase One, which is set to be complete fall 2019.

The goal of the project is to open up 12 acres of developable land, protect against potential flooding, connect Lane and King Avenues north to south, and enhance green space along the Olentangy River Corridor.

In addition to an extra shuttle service to the Carmack lots, permit designations were changed in Carmack Five — the westernmost of the five Carmack lots — to accommodate more staff members parking there than were initially anticipated.

“They just picked the first few rows and made those staff parking, so that if staff did overflow to that lot [Carmack Five] it was just a little bit less of a walk,” said Dan Hedman, an Ohio State spokesman.

Additionally, there have been issues with the amount of parking spaces available for medical center staff at the Carmack Lots.

University and CampusParc adapting to parking challenges

Ohio State and CampusParc spent more than a year preparing and planning how the loss of the Dodd and Polo lots and Cannon Drive’s closing would affect parking, representatives for each said.

“Well over a year ago, we had a series of town-hall meetings [with medical center staff] to explain the fact that we were going to have to basically move Cannon Drive, build a levee and put Cannon Drive on top of it, and how we were going to mitigate the impact to staff parking in the areas that were impacted, the Polo lot, the Dodd lot, how we were going to be able to provide a good accessible option for them,” said Mark Conselyea, associate vice president of Wexner Medical Center Space and Facilities planning.

The ability to see parking challenges and adapt to them are enabled by a mix of data gathered by CampusParc and direct feedback from people affected by the parking changes, said Beth Snoke, director of transportation and traffic management for Ohio State.

Permit data was used to develop the initial parking projections, she said. Shuttle service was provided for Carmack Five as well, Hedman said.

“You look at past permit sales, then you take into account the spaces that are moving,” Snoke said. “There’s some formula that [CampusParc] can use to figure the probability of who would be inclined to keep the same permit and park maybe at the stadium instead, and a number of people that will move to the different lots.”

Once the change was implemented, continuous monitoring of the Carmack Lots enabled the university to see further changes were needed, Conselyea said.

“[CampusParc has] technology that they can do counts for in the lots so we know how full they are at what times,” he said. “We actually had a drone do some flyovers to kind of monitor the lots over a [two-day] period to make sure if we were getting close to capacity, we had some ideas on how we were going to deal with that. We were just really watching it closely the first couple of weeks.”

CampusParc employees gather most of its data during permit enforcement checks, in which they scan license plates for data, CampusParc spokesman David Hoover said.

“They are also able to gather data on the parking habits of customers,” Hoover said. “So from that we learn where people are parking and when.”

Still, the need to make some changes to the Carmack Five Lot was observed through more old-fashioned means, he said.

“Many of us were out at the Carmack lots the first days when the Polo lots changed,” Hoover said. “So a lot of it was just watching and seeing and talking to people, and seeing how the Carmack One, Two, Three and Four were filling, and the staff were having to move to Carmack Five, where we also allow overnight student parking.”

The physical human presence in the impacted lots was an idea Hedman said the university took from the city bus system, COTA, when it made route changes earlier in the year.

As the construction project continues, the university will rely on feedback gathered from the email address linked on the Cannon Drive construction website, Snoke said.

“Feedback has been extremely helpful and we try to listen to all of it and react accordingly where we can,” she said. “And so we just hope it keeps coming.”

Correction, 9/28: The CampusParc spokesman’s name is David Hoover. Previously, his name was stated as Dan Hoover.