Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pay to Play: An Ethnographic Study

I did my ethnography on the new Lot 51 Visitor Pay-by-Space parking area with accompanying parking station kiosks. My observations consisted of plenty of counting and a whole lot more of waiting as it were. The waiting was a necessary setback since parking observations are incomplete unless one stakes out a parking lot for whole day periods, which I did not have the manpower to fully complete. The few observations I completed were from an hour long to a half hour. Even one time, it consisted of a mere surveillance of the lot during the overnight hours to see if anything was out of the "ordinary."

I did learn a great deal and found out some interesting trends in the new visitor parking—and more reasons to not appreciate Transportation Services. Something very interesting I learned was the lengths that some will take to park closer to campus, even for an extra $6 in cost. This was evident in Lot 50 permitted cars parking a lot over conceivably because the walk from the rear of Lot 50 would have taken longer than simply zipping into the visitor spot and paying. An interesting correlation was that these same permitted vehicles had EZ Tag toll tags, indicating a few indicators of possible expendable income or greater ease at paying a little extra for some added benefit (like a closer parking spot to class).

What I also observed was that women had more of tendancy to talk to the machine, that the biggest delay was figuring out their pre-determined time in the parking spot, the biggest overall confusion was whether or not to keep the ticket or put it in the vehicle, and largest flaw of the actual parking station kiosk system was that the ticket dispenser was out-of-view of the user. In fact, on a couple occassions the common user verbalization was "Where's my ticket?"

Some of the biggest difficulties I ran into over the course of the week was just what kind of and how much data we should have been collecting. I understood the concept of an ethnography well enough, but this clarification and deeper understanding would have been helpful from the onset when the initial ethnography assignment was assigned.

Posted: George, Josh Myers, and Lei Gui.


  1. You mention people paying to park even though they have a PA50 permit. I can think why people would do this, to make it to class on time. Maybe they left for class at the normal time, but someone had a wreck and now they are pressed for time. To make it worse, they have a quiz at the start of class. Solution, pay a few dollars save dang near 5 minutes in walking and you make it to class on time and pass the quiz. Convenience always costs money.

  2. I think you would definitely get the most from the study by focusing just on the ticket machine itself. Sounds like it has some usability problems.

  3. I haven't been the biggest fan of the transportation services over the year, but I'm kind've surprised that they would set up a pay-to-park spot in lot 51. I'd imagine it would be difficult to catch all thats going on in the parking lot during heavy traffic time.