Earning Your Ph.D. in Parking Technology
When it comes to singing the praises of parking technology, Jack Davis makes it sound more like Hoosier Hysteria. Davis is manager of Parking Enforcement for the City of Bloomington, IN, the home of Indiana University. And parking technology has provided a valuable education for his department, the citizens of Bloomington and the 35,000 students at the university.
Bloomington has 2,000 on-street parking spaces, free to the public at-large, but limited to a once-a-day two-hour use.
Management, according to Davis, is crucial in a city that is home to a major university. "We have to be cognizant that parking is fair and available to both residents and students." And since downtown Bloomington is only two blocks from campus, parking management issues don't stop at the motorist level -- it's a significant issue for merchants as well.
Davis has a team of eight officers who patrol downtown on a regular two-hour beat. They record every license plate and the time they pass by. Cars that remain beyond the 120 minutes maximum or return to park on the same street on the same day are issued a citation. These officers write, on average, about 57,000 tickets per year.
To help track this information, the city uses T2 ePark with handheld ticketwriters by Symbol. Prior to using handhelds, all tickets were written and issued by hand.
"That's a lot of opportunity for data-entry errors and a lot of lost opportunity spent on mindless key stroking," said Bloomington's Davis. "Now our officers come back at the end of the day, download their information instantly and the citations are issued automatically. Not only is the process swifter and more accurate, but our collections rate has jumped."
Davis and his staff have implemented and successfully manage a neighborhood parking permit program as well as a 350-space park-and-ride created especially for students.
"Our citations range from $12 to $17, but on-campus tickets run from $30 to $35, so we have to make every effort to facilitate a controlled and fair parking situation for students," added Davis.
More than just tickets
But, according to Davis, "technology is more than just about writing tickets." The parking management system allows Davis and his staff to focus in on details.
"For example," explains Davis, "not only can we generate timely and accurate revenue reports, but now we can delve into the details such as which of our lots are used most frequently, how often our on-street parking spots turn over, and how many neighborhood permits are issued by individual neighborhood. Knowledge is power. And now we have the knowledge to maximize revenue, optimize usage of our existing parking spaces, better ensure public safety, and provide an even higher level of customer service."
To meet the needs of both residents and the city's student population, Bloomington has just begun to accept citation payments online and, according to Davis, will soon be selling and renewing permits on-line as well. As Davis points out, "We can either become a student of e-commerce or lose the e-commerce of students."
Parking, like basketball, is more than just a game in Indiana.
Peter J. Pitts is a senior fellow at the Institute for Strategic Communications and an adjunct professor at Indiana University's School for Public and Environmental Affairs.
The Colorado Parking Association has launched their hotline, in
conjunction with the Denver PD,
to allow parkers to report suspicious activity in garages. There have been over 400 signs promoting the project produced and deployed in the
Denver Metro Area. Pictured (below, left to right) at the project's launch are the Denver Police's Virginia
Lopez (Public Relations), Chief Gerald Whiteman and Commander Batista; and Jay Protenic, CPA President.