Transportation director chats about parking in Abu Dhabi

Traveling to the other side of the globe, Doug Holmes learned something about parking. "Everybody deals with the same problems."

Although, Penn State's interim transportation director said different cultures place different values on those problems. Some countries solve their parking problems by building lots outside of town and provide transit to the center of town. There are other countries where that kind of parking would be bad for business.

Holmes learned this while attending the Middle East Parking Symposium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. As a past chairman of the International Parking Institute, he was the keynote speaker at the conference and discussed many of the parking procedures University Park has.

Parking representatives from colleges, municipalities, vendors and consultants from all over the world attended the event. While Holmes was sharing the topic of parking at Penn State with the attendees, he realized how much differently people in the middle east were running their parking operations.

"They don't really have a concept of parking management on college campuses there," he said. "It's a free for all. It's not uncommon for people to leave their cars in the middle of the aisle. They leave their business card on the windshield and others can call if they need it to be moved."

The city planners of Abu Dhabi have identified these problems and are working hard to take back control. That is why they called in Holmes to discuss how to handle day-to-day parking issues, as well as large event parking issues. He spoke about the size of University Park and the challenges of finding places for 40,000 cars on football game days.

A majority of football fans park in grass fields and Holmes explained the logic of not building parking for that kind of need, which is basically that building and maintaining lots is not cost effective. Plus, it's just more fun to tailgate in the grass.

Holmes added that even though he was there to educate, he learned a lot from the trip as well. Abu Dhabi is trying to expand and it's taking the precautions to not build itself into future parking issues.

Holmes said that spending a day and a half in an airplane and airports was the most challenging part of the trip. However, he said everyone he met was pleasant and helpful, and he's excited to see where the optimism takes the planners of Abu Dhabi.

Last Updated March 21, 2011