Civil engineering student, professor seek to find parking solutions


Claudia Flores

Ph.D., civil engineering student, Okan Gurbuz and civil engineering professor Kelvin Cheu, Ph.D., are working in a research project to develop tools to assist parking offices for universities nationwide.

Claudia Flores, Editor-in-chief

In an attempt to find solutions to parking shortages, doctoral civil engineering student Okan Gurbuz and civil engineering professor Kelvin Cheu, Ph.D., are working on a research project to develop tools to assist parking offices at universities nationwide.
The project titled “Sparkman: A Smart Parking Management Tool for University Campuses” consists of a 12-question survey to collect data and understand student’s travel and parking choices.
By collecting data from 300 universities across the country, Gurbuz developed two models: one that predicts what the price of parking spots should be and one that predicts the overall demand on campus.
Gurbuz said that out of 300 universities, 81 of them, including UC Berkeley and Cornell University, face the same parking shortage problem as UTEP.
The project’s model provides the total number of students enrolled, parameters that may affect parking and the number of faculty and staff. It was created to measure large universities with an enrollment number larger than 10,000.
“I showed this model at national conferences and nobody else has done this. With this model now, I can predict any university’s possible demands in the U.S,” Gurbuz said.
The research project not only aims to help find solutions, but develop tools such as mobile apps that can help on-campus parking users to find parking availability in different and efficient ways. This is just an idea at the moment, according to Gurbuz.
“There are some technologies we can implement to parking in our survey, and we list them to students because we want the student perception and point of view, and their desires on how technology can help,” Gurbuz said.
They aim for a goal of 500 students, faculty and staff to answer the survey for data collection.
“About a year and a half ago, we had been approached by the former director of (UTEP) parking and transportation to help solve the campus parking problem,” Cheu said. “From that point in time I started to be interested in the parking issues. We did some research to see whatever solution was available to solve the problem and we found very little work has been done, so we decided this is the research we want to proceed with – especially because UTEP is a good place to study and get data.”
Cheu recalls new building construction that has contributed to a shortage of parking space, as well as increase in student enrollment.
“I’ve been at UTEP for 14 years and there was always a shortage on parking space, but the problem got worse because of the sudden increase in enrollment,” Cheu said “Then we are taking space that used to be parking lots for the construction of new buildings, such as Centennial Plaza and the computer science building.”
Six months ago, Cheu received an email inquiry from President Diana Natalicio through the Dean’s office regarding the research project.
“The email said that she is looking for someone who can help resolve the parking problem and we replied to her email and we received a reply from Dr. Natalicio that she is supportive of us doing the research and she is helping is to gather the data available on campus,” Cheu said.
Most recently Cheu and Gurbuz received an approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation that their $40,000 research proposal was approved.
“This is going to help us to conduct the research and last week we received the news the project was approved and had been reviewed by experts in the field,” Cheu said.
Both Gurbuz and Cheu hope this research project can become a hands-on project to help solve the parking problem at UTEP.
“I am an international student and I always think that researchers should start looking for the inner circle on how we can benefit our community,” Gurbuz said. “I think this is a good opportunity to help the community on a topic nobody has done much.”
He said he hopes to find data that will enable him to give advice to universities that are struggling with the same issue.
“This is something that makes me feel proud of myself,” Gurbuz said.
According to Gurbuz and Cheu, the results of the research will be released to the public once the research is completed.
For more information about or take the survey visit