Mock-up Sparkman: A Smart Parking Management Tool

Sparkman: A Smart Parking Management Tool
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Every vehicle trip starts and ends with parking, making parking facilities the main components of transportation infrastructure. Universities face particularly complex parking problems due to the wide variety of trip types, users, and facilities they serve. Every university has a parking department responsible for the implementation of parking policies. The common parking management strategies are zoning of parking lots (allocation of stalls to different types of users), differentiation of permits and prices for different zones, preferential treatment (e.g., for carpool vehicles), among others.

PI Kelvin Cheu and his students have developed a total parking demand model for students and a “base price” model for student parking permits based on data gathered from an internet survey on parking at 208 university campuses across the United States. This project aims to develop a student parking lot zoning and zone permit pricing model, and then integrate the total demand model, “base price” model, and the zoning model into a software tool named Sparkman, which can be used by all university parking offices.

Research Objectives & Deliverables

This research focuses on student parking, which is the largest group of parking users on most university campuses. The objectives are:

  • To conduct a survey to understand the factors that influence students’ parking location choices, usage patterns, preferences among the different Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) applications for parking and levels of tolerance for parking search time.
  • To develop the level of service (LOS) criteria for parking search time;
  • To develop a student parking lot zoning and zone permit pricing (Z2P2) model that groups several parking lots into a zone, and recommend the permit price for the zone;
  • To develop a software tool named Sparkman that estimates the total student parking demand of the entire campus, the “base price” of student parking permits, zoning of student parking lots, and the permit prices of the different zones. The total demand and “base price” models have been developed by the PI as two separate models in earlier research, while the Z2P2 models will be developed as part of this project. The total demand, “base price” and Z2P2 models will be integrated into Sparkman as part of this research

The deliverables for this project include:

  • Sparkman 1.0, an Excel-based software tool for UPOs to make decisions on student parking zones, student permit prices
  • A video on how to use Sparkman
  • Survey results (aggregated data)
  • LOS criteria for parking search time
Final Report

Final Report

Results of Survey about UTEP Students' Parking Behavior

Technology Transfer

Ph.D. candidate Okan Gurbuz and Professor Kelvin Cheu present research on university parking demand models
Ph.D. candidate Okan Gurbuz (left) and Professor Kelvin Cheu are implementing research on demand and pricing models for university campus parking to develop a smart parking management tool.

Joseph Chow


Kelvin Cheu

Kelvin Cheu


Okan Gurbuz

Okan Gurbuz


Tania Licon


Principal InvestigatorKelvin Cheu, UTEP
Funding SourceC2SMART Center: $40,000
UTEP: $20,071
Total Project Cost$60,071
USDOT Award #69A3551747124
Start and End Dates03/01/2019-08/31/2020
Implementation of Research OutcomesSparkman’s market includes hundreds of university campuses (with enrollment of at least 10,000) within the U.S.

The survey is to collect data for the development of the Z2P2 model, and future versions of Sparkman. Information collected from the survey concerning parking behavior will be used in the future to develop a micro-demand model to estimate the number of permits that can be sold for a given zone at a given price. The survey responses will suggest which ITS practices are preferred by students to improve the efficiency of parking system on campus.

The feedbacks on parking search time will be used to develop the LOS criteria for parking search, which may be of interest to the Highway Capacity Manual.

Impacts/Benefits of Implementation
  1. Sparkman will be an Excel-based tool designed to assist UPO staff to make better decisions on the zoning of student parking lots, and setting the student permit prices at each zone. The benefits of allocating sufficient stalls at suitable permit prices include reducing congestion, emissions and students’ frustration in the search of empty parking stalls. Due to time and budget limitations, assessment of benefits is not part of this project.


  1. Sparkman is a planning tool designed for UPOs to use once per semester. On the other hand, ITS has the potential to improve the system’s operational efficiency, including user experience, in day-to-day operations. The survey results will enable researchers and UPOs to understand students’ needs and preferences for future improvements of their parking experiences using ITS.


  1. The LOS criteria for parking search time will be the standard evaluation criteria for any change in parking management policy.

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