Can the Parking Industry Ease Regulations and Bring Civility?
Many changes are happening in the parking industry – more proactive, driver-friendlier, cost effective and efficient. Technologies such as cloud-based computing, cellphone, the Internet and others are being used on a widespread basis to solve some of the daily problems a parking operator faces today.
A more comprehensive perspective with an easing of many old regulations, including introduction of new ones, is required to take parking services to the next level of civility. This article identifies some of those areas for the industry to explore further.
With the advent of such technologies, the question to be asked is, Do we need to rethink some of those regulations? I say yes.
Thirty-five years in telecommunications and information technology (IT) services have led me believe that civility must prevail in terms of customer satisfaction. But being part of the parking industry for the last 10 years has given me a different impression.
Too many adverse news headlines related to parking over a short period are reasons for that impression. Perhaps no other service industry draws such media attention.
It happens only in the parking industry – you are given a ticket (a criminal offense, in some sense) for over-use. Nothing like this happens in any other service industry, such as telephone, electricity, airline and even a city’s water and waste collection. Those service providers may charge you at a higher agreed upon rate for over-use.
But for the parking industry, some say that is how parking regulations work. And some say this is how a city’s budget is balanced, with extra collections from parking violations.
Many cities have come up with incentive plans for drivers to pay off their fines with no penalty. There may be many reasons for such – to me – phenomena, but that must change for VIP-like parking services.
Regulatory easing is required for long-term goals such as stronger public and private partnerships for optimum resource sharing for mutual benefits; improving construction codes to maintain commercial/residential ratio to parking areas; and an evolutionary “Go Green” strategy, with solid CO/CO2 emission codes in cities, including parking facilities.
Specific questions to be asked for a new regulatory paradigm are as follows:
• Why a parking ticket? Replace it with an online account so that violators could be charged to this account as in other similar city or utility services.
• Why meter-specific parking? Try meter-independent but hour- or day-dependent parking, with a home-printed parking pass.
• Why handicapped parking decals or other special decals? All vehicle owners and their license plate information should be in the database for an automatic check of special consideration.
• Why have parking offenses taken to court? Introduce civility with the help of technologies with well-documented activities and advance payments.
• Why cash meter feeding for parking? Introduce an 800 call number for parking activation/deactivation while sitting in the vehicle so that cash collection can be avoided.
• Why expensive meter, inventory and field maintenance? Deploy more self-service parking portals to replace meters with marked spaces and online collections.
• Why idling or circling in the city lot or the garage?
Make space reservations and avoid CO2 emissions and
• Why not divide work responsibilities between the parker and the parking administration? Follow the model of the airlines where you can print out a boarding pass and luggage check from home or by cellphone.
• Why not increase the mobility and convenience of parkers by extensive use of the cellphone? With simple registration and mobile PIN code, parkers have the flexibility to activate/deactivate parking privileges from any place and at any time.
• Why two separate processing systems – for on-street parking and garage parking? Web portals should be designed to integrate both.
• Why complicated and vendor-proprietary parking access and revenue control systems? Simplify that with less labor intensive Internet portal applications (with easy audit), so that cellphone and Internet become integral parts.
• Why not fold parking services under information technology services? Joint planning, such as private-public partnerships, will marshal competing resources for saving the environment, for example.
• Why not connect all parking resources nationwide such as the telephone network and electrical grid?
• Why not reduce employees’ in-office work time with online operations, including account management, payment processing, complaint- and appeal-handling practices, and other queries?
Adjustments to parking regulations need to be identified and defined in all areas as outlined above for a broader understanding of parking services to be at par with similar services such as telephone, electricity and water.
I call it bringing more civility to the parking industry.
Amalendu Chatterjee, VP-Technology at EximSoft International, can be reached at email@example.com.
Article Abstract from December, 2012