Managing Traffic

Managing Traffic

Keeping the campus safe in a complex environment

Educational campuses are busy, complex environments. Amidst all the bustle, there are countless discreet traffic interactions governing whether people and vehicles make it to their destinations safely and smoothly. Managing these interactions is a multifaceted challenge that demands a wide array of solutions encompassing everything from traffic management and parking revenue, to pedestrian safety and emergency preparedness.

For students, faculty, and staff on campus, these solutions are invisible. A student rushing to class or a faculty member moseying across campus for lunch has little interest in why their transit is smooth and safe just so long as it is exactly that. For campus administration and security, however, the specifics of managing campus traffic and security are hugely important. During major campus events such as graduation ceremonies or sporting events, even the slightest security hiccup can derail an entire day, or much worse. Understanding the solutions necessary to address issues proactively is vital.

To better understand where and how to influence traffic without interrupting campus activities, let’s dive into the specific solutions behind campus traffic management.

Campus Entry Points

Entry points represent a significant opportunity to shape a campus’s traffic environment; they are one of the areas where school administration has the most ability to exert control over the movement of people and vehicles. As a result, there are a variety of security and traffic management goals one may look to pursue for these entry points.

First, entry points are an opportunity to regulate the nature and volume of vehicles. There is a constant, wide range of reasons for vehicles to enter a campus, most of which are perfectly appropriate. However, authorizing and pacing throughput is both a prudent risk management strategy and a measure against fender-benders.

The entry point solution must serve several different goals. It should slow down arrivals, so vehicles do not enter campus at high speeds, enhancing pedestrian safety. It should optimize throughput to avoid backups, while deterring cut-throughs or otherwise aimless traffic.

Finally, it must allow industrial vehicles to enter campus, since moving trucks and commercial vehicles are commonplace visitors.

Though these goals may seem difficult to realize through only a single solution, sometimes complex problems have simple answers. A barrier arm, designed to raise and lower for the regulation of routine traffic is efficient, versatile, and visible, making it an effective entry regulation tool.

For example, consider the StrongArm from HySecurity. With a cycle speed of just two seconds to open and three to close, the StrongArm will slow traffic without allowing it to stack. Its 90-degree open angle allows for even the largest industrial vehicles to enter. The speed and flexibility of barrier arms like the StrongArm has distinct advantages over slide or swing gate solutions, which feature far larger entrapment zones where pedestrians may become injured.

Given the less-than-judicious tendencies of college-aged populations, prioritizing additional safety measures like UL325 compliance and soft-start/soft-stop pacing is yet another measure barrier arms take to protect pedestrians. For maximum safety, many barrier arms use a “breakaway arm.” In the event of a vehicle strike, this feature allows for damage to the arm without endangering the device’s more valuable motor or chassis. Maintenance staff can then bolt the arm back on after a crash rather than having to replace an entire system.

LED lighting on the arm allows drivers to see the barrier arm from a distance, giving them time to slow down or deterring those whose intent is to cut through campus. By nature, people taking a shortcut are likely to move at faster pace than normal traffic so dissuading these surplus, speedy vehicles is a beneficial safety step.

Parking Access

Parking is the next logical step on the traffic flow chart. Providing parking that is accessible and well-regulated is instrumental in getting vehicles efficiently on and off campus roadways. Parking can also be a productive source of revenue generation for a school. Thus, a secondary goal of campus traffic management teams should be to introduce forced stops at parking garage entrances where drivers must take a ticket stub or scan an RFID fob to ensure faculty and staff are parking vehicles in their appropriate locations.

Entrances to parking areas serve a similar purpose as campus entry points. Barrier arms are therefore suited to this application as well, particularly when deployed with an articulating arm like the HySecurity Strong- Arm Park. Unlike a traditional rigid arm, an articulating arm bends using an elbow to provide traffic management in an environment where space is limited. This allows articulating barrier arms to fit into parking garage environments where ceiling clearance may be lower or other constraints may be present. The cycle speed and visibility of such arms mirror that of rigid arms, allowing them to function in parking areas with the same efficiently they do at campus entry points.

Getting vehicles into and out of parking areas efficiently is always going to be an operational goal and incorporating fail-safes in the event of power outages is key. For this reason, the StrongArm Park includes a DC-UPS backup. It also features advanced reporting and monitoring capabilities via HyNet that can integrate with existing hardware and software, alerting security when parts are non-operational or damaged. Further intelligence can be built into these machines to count and communicate capacity status as well.

A typical campus will have multiple parking areas, and these spaces may not have identical entrance dimensions. Identifying a barrier arm manufacturer who can provide arms suitable for any and all of these locations, regardless of clearance or berth is a smart step to take. This will ease replacement, maintenance, and on-going service, as built-in logic can send alerts to that manufacturer if a product needs service before campus staff even detect an issue.

Stadiums and Campus Buildings

Though not every school has a stadium designed to fit hundreds of thousands of spectators, nearly all have athletic facilities or largescale event venues. The chief traffic-related goals around these spaces must always be guest safety, specifically during mass pedestrian entry and exit from the stadium or arena grounds. Unlike academic buildings or dining halls, where there may be a pair of entrances and a small courtyard, large venues like a stadium can potentially have dozens of entry points with expansive external pedestrian areas, often used for ticketing, event promotions, or simply as gathering points.

These areas must be kept clear of vehicle traffic without interrupting the flow of pedestrian foot-traffic for a safe and smooth event. That said, there are times where vehicles may need to enter these spaces, such as in the event of an emergency. That means barriers used to prevent vehicle ingress must be strong enough for Hostile Vehicle Mitigation (HVM) purposes while still movable enough to be removed quickly for time-sensitive situations.

Aesthetics are another valid priority for traffic management decision- makers. Event venues are often marketing tools for the schools they serve, meaning their outward appearance carries great value. Stadium traffic management solutions must then facilitate as safe, streamlined and scenic a fan experience as possible.

For decades, schools have tried to tackle this objective by using jersey barriers, the unwieldy and unattractive products constantly seen on the sides of highways and around construction zones. A far more effective and elegant solution is the active bollard. Much like a traditional static bollard, an active bollard is anchored to the ground, giving it an advantage for HVM purposes over untethered jersey barriers. They are also made of more durable – and standardized – materials than jersey barriers, which are typically built from leftover concrete or cheap hard plastic. Their size and shape present less of a target for tagging or other vandalism, and with color customizable caps and lighting, they are more attractive as well.

When jersey barriers are arranged to prevent vehicular access into a certain area, their length funnels pedestrians towards crowded chokepoints. Active bollards create a much more breathable foot-traffic environment where fans are evenly dispersed. Active bollards also don’t require a crew with heavy machinery to deploy or remove them, saving time and cost.

The most effective feature of active bollards as a traffic management solution in stadium spaces is that they are active, meaning they can be lowered fully into the ground when not in use. This flexibility means traffic management administrators can be prepared for emergency situations without holding personnel on standby to move barriers. To illustrate, imagine a student suffers an injury during an event and needs an ambulance to enter an area typically off-limits to vehicles. While jersey barriers will take minutes to move, active bollards can lower in seconds.

In addition to stadia and arenas, academic buildings and housing may need protection from vehicles. The same strategies that regulate stadium traffic can also safeguard these structures. Strategically deployed static and active bollards around buildings can prevent accidental vehicle strikes while promoting healthy pedestrian foot traffic as faculty, staff and others keep to their busy schedules.

Simple can be Smart

For school administrators, architects, and campus security, ensuring the safety of faculty, staff and visitors to campus is paramount. Well designed traffic management is a fundamental aspect of that goal. Barrier arms and bollards can do far more than allow vehicular and pedestrian traffic to flow is a controlled manner.

Modern products allow the owner to add intelligence and integrate these solutions into larger systems, such as parking or campus alerts systems. They can provide detailed reporting on damage and suggest predictive maintenance to the appropriate contact. Though they literally exist to impede traffic, they never stand in the way of campus safety and security. Instead, they make traffic management and emergency prevent and response smoother in innumerable invisible ways.

Take this common scenario for example: a student or faculty member is walking across campus and finds themselves in sudden need for emergency assistance. They activate the closest emergency blue light box and wait for assistance from the proper authorities – often campus security or medical staff.

If the right solution has been planned for, specified, and built into campus safety and security systems, help will arrive much faster. An intelligent traffic management solution can actively remove the barriers between the distressed individual and the people coming to their aid. Barrier arms can automatically be raised to allow an ambulance faster entrance to campus.

Active bollards can be lowered to give campus security vehicles a clear path. The end result is a faster, more prompt response to those in need.

Though schools’ individual traffic management needs will vary, the need to manage the flow of traffic – vehicular and pedestrian – is paramount to the safety and security of all. The best traffic management solutions always improve the campus experience, managing the pace of and volume of vehicle traffic and preserving the beauty of the grounds –and, in the event of an emergency, they proactively transform to meet the current need. When tasked with the safety and security of hundreds, if not thousands, planning for incidents is the best mitigation strategy.

This article originally appeared in the July / August 2021 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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