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Raising the Bar at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center

With unprecedented access to reviews, empowered customers are rewarding companies that listen and shape services to their needs and walking away from those who don't. A study published by American Express found that consumers are telling more people about their experiences. On average, customers tell 15 people about their good experiences and 24 people about their bad experiences. Keenly aware of how this trend was effecting even healthcare, Sutter Health wanted to carefully consider the parking they planned to add in conjunction to the design and construction of a new hospital tower at their Oakland facility. Sutter realized that parking represents the first line of customer service and that it was of vital importance since their customers are often dealing with mobility impairment issues and are distracted because they are concentrating on their own or a loved one’s healthcare issues. Sutter’s customer service at its Oakland facility, the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, was improved through three primary parking best practices.

One of the largest complaints about parking in healthcare is that there isn’t enough.

The new type of hospital design that resulted from the 2005-2008 hospital construction boom, changed how we must calculate hospital parking demand. The new design is not as efficient in terms of beds/square-foot and therefore the calculation of stalls/square-foot is no longer a reliable measurement. In addition, the significant shift from inpatient care to outpatient care produces a much higher turnover rate and therefore a much higher parking demand than the traditional inpatient model.

Medical center parking must now be calculated through a detailed analysis of how the parking is currently used. Tracking this data and consistently collecting parking counts taken at different times of day and days of the week will help to expose the unique parking trends at a medical center. Prior to the EIR, Sutter Health had this type of parking study conducted for both on and off street parking and calculated the demand that would be generated by the new development. Discovering there would still be a shortfall after adding their planned parking structure, Sutter implemented a Traffic Demand Management plan to reduce single vehicle trips by 10%. This program included a parking valet, car counting systems and signage that clearly designates different user groups, preferred parking for carpools and ongoing monitoring of parking counts.

Where parking is located contributes to perception.

How the parking is distributed among a Medical Center’s many different user groups significantly contributes to customer satisfaction. Parking for patients and visitors should be located nearest to the entrance. It is often necessary to identify subsets of the patient and visitor community due to the different locations that each one may need to enter the facility. Special care should be taken for highly sensitive subsets, such as those who are accessing specialized cancer treatment or dialysis. Additionally, more accessible parking spaces may be needed than are required by code. These spaces should be distributed at each entrance to the facility. Parking for medical staff and employees is also needed and certain subsets may need preferred parking. For those medical staff and employees who are parking farther away, it is important that safety and security are provided. For the Alta Bates facility, alternatives were carefully studied and designs were formulated to located patients and visitors in areas nearest to the new hospital and patient care center. Parking for physicians is located on the lowest level and employees are provided parking on the third through the sixth level of the new structure. Working in tandem with carefully determining how the parking was distributed, great care was taken to create safe pedestrian paths on this urban campus. The design team created a pedestrian spine between the new hospital tower and the parking, as well as an ADA compliant path through the new parking structure to an adjacent bus stop. This path utilizes the parking structure’s elevator to make the transition down a hill.

Everyone remembers poor signage.

So now that you have provided the right amount of parking and designated it appropriately, it is important that you provide the right wayfinding to direct people to the proper location to park, as well as guide them on how to enter the building. As there are often multiple building entrances, it is important to link the parking resources to these different entrances when entering and exiting. When medical appointments are sent out, it can be very helpful if parking information is included in those notices and if you charge for parking, it is helpful to be very clear about the charges in advance. Great care was taken to ensure that the signage in new and existing parking structures at Alta Bates, as well as the surrounding pedestrian paths followed these best practices. 

Original Source:  "Parking Magazine, May 2014"

About the Authors

Michelle Wendler, AIA has been creating parking solutions for the firm’s clients for over 25 years. Michelle is a licensed architect in 12 states. She is responsible for the design of over 150 parking projects and leads parking studies and parking structure design for the firm. A member of the Sustainability & Education Committees for the International Parking Institute, Michelle has penned and spoken on a number of industry topics, such as Healthcare Parking as the First Line of Customer Service, Incorporating Photovoltaics into Parking Structures & Parking Structure Aesthetics.

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Matt Davis has been creating parking solutions for almost 15 years. He has worked on over 50 parking projects and is a certified Parksmart Advisor. In addition to delivering projects to satisfied clients, Matt’s projects, such as the Tustin Metrolink Station Parking Structure and the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center Parking Structure, have received recognition from the International Parking Institute and other associations. An active participant in the International Parking Institute and the Pacific Intermountain Parking & Transportation Association, Matt has penned and spoken on a number of industry topics, such as Healthcare Parking as the First Line of Customer Service, Green Parking, Transit Parking Best Practices, the Future of Parking, Retrofitting Parking and Right Sizing Parking.

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