From big cities to college campuses, tackling the challenges of parking
By Taylor Reeves
With a successful professional background in some of the nation’s largest cities, Dan Hofmann may be considered a parking guru. While the rolling hills and surrounding lakes of Clemson University, where Hofmann was recently named director of parking and transportation services, are a far cry from the busy streets of New York, Boston and Chicago, Hofmann says there is no place he would rather be.
Hofmann grew up on Long Island and attended St. John’s University in Queens. After receiving a degree in criminal justice, he worked for the city of New York as an intern in the offices of the inspector general. Hofmann was involved in managing a bus information system (Guide-A-Ride), which consisted of overseeing transit fixtures with map and schedule information at more than 13,000 bus stops. He also was involved in surveying handicap accessibility in New York City polling locations and helped raise the accessibility rate from 33 percent to over 90 percent within a two-year period.
Hofmann was eventually promoted to chief of parking control for the city of New York, where he established an operation to combat costly vandalism of the city’s 70,000 parking meters. His unit set up surveillance cameras to monitor frequently vandalized meters and called in a local news crew to publicize initial arrests.
“The first guy we caught was a man who worked on Wall Street,” said Hofmann. “He was wearing a suit and driving a Mercedes, and we showed up with a news team while he was breaking a meter.”
The publicity helped discourage potential vandals, and Hofmann’s unit was successful in significantly curbing meter destruction. After leaving New York, Hofmann became the director of parking management for the city of Boston and eventually deputy commissioner for field operations.
Hofmann made the move to university parking when he became operations manager for parking services at Harvard University. Harvard allowed for a refreshing change of scenery and pace, and he enjoyed learning the ins and outs of university parking operations. However, a private parking operator came calling, and Hofmann accepted a position in Chicago, which had recently privatized its parking meter system. While Hofmann’s professional background made him a suitable fit for the fast-paced position in the city, he missed the college atmosphere. He made the move from Chicago to Clemson in the fall of 2011 and hasn’t looked back.
“I love it here,” he said. “I love that the students, faculty and staff are so engaged, and I see a lot of potential to make Clemson a model for other academic institutions when it comes to parking and transportation issues. I want to make Clemson my last stop.”
Hofmann has big plans for the school he has decided to call home. He hopes to promote more convenient and user-friendly parking initiatives that contribute to the University’s sustainability goals.
One of parking services’ main objectives is to reduce the number of cars on campus by offering more options to students, faculty and staff. This semester, Hofmann introduced Zimride, an online ride-matching service that allows students, faculty and staff to coordinate carpools to and from campus, and WeCar, a car-sharing program that allows students, faculty and staff to rent low-emission, hybrid or electric vehicles, which are located around campus. Hofmann would also like to expand the number of carpool spaces on campus and offer preferred parking spaces to both carpoolers and drivers with low-emission vehicles.
“I’m excited about the initiative the incoming freshman class will be able to take,” said Hofmann. “We want to put them in charge of how they contribute to sustainability goals.”
Parking services is working closely with Clemson Area Transit to develop more efficient routes that will allow students a viable alternative to driving and is also encouraging student bike use.
Currently, one of the biggest complaints about student parking is a lack of available spaces.
“I’ve been told that when you buy a parking permit here, you’re buying a hunting license,” joked Hofmann. “But we’re doing a lot of work with circulation that will hopefully change that perception.”
Hofmann plans to introduce a more efficient meter system in which solar-powered parking meters control multiple spaces and accept credit, debit and TigerStripe payment in addition to cash and coins. Because the meters are digital, users will be able to remotely add time to their meters via cell phone. Hofmann hopes the new meter system will eliminate confusion about visitor, timed and 30-minute spaces, as metered spaces would encompass all three. The new meters will designate and regulate visitor parking more clearly and will eliminate the need for distributing visitor permits at different locations across campus. The ultimate goal, according to Hofmann, is to free up designated spaces for permit holders so that they can find parking quickly and easily.
Hofmann’s integration into the Clemson community has been more than just professional. While waiting on his wife and family to make the move to the Upstate, he lived in the Shoeboxes through the fall semester.
“People told me I’m brave,” he said, “but it’s been a great experience. I get to see how the campus lives and breathes. I feel connected.”
Hofmann hopes to rebrand parking services as a more student-friendly organization through large-scale initiatives like meter renovation and through smaller changes such as improved customer service in the parking offices.
“We don’t want to tell people why they can’t do something, but instead help them find out how they can,” he said.
From the busy streets of the Big Apple to the paw-printed streets of Clemson, Dan Hofmann’s career has been anything but boring. He looks forward to exciting changes both professionally and personally as he settles in to the Upstate.