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In 1905, it was E = mc2

In 2006, a New Parking Formula?

By Joseph P. Sciulli

In the November and December 2005 editions of Parking Today, two articles covered how the potential output of parking or transportation programs could be measured through the following five-step approach:

1. Obtain stakeholders' opinions on program performance.
2. Conduct first-hand observations of your operations.
3. Analyze program data, and if necessary, develop the means to collect other key data.
4. Conduct field activity surveys (highly related to Step 3).
5. Assess the true effectiveness of the supporting infrastructure (e.g., organizational design, labor agreements, overarching governance).
The two previous articles suggested specific actions to implement the first two steps. In Step One, feedback is sought from outside constituents on program strengths and weaknesses so the organization can capitalize on the former and improve the latter. In Step Two, the manager personally experiences all of the "good, bad and ugly" of the organization's own service quality as a customer would, to identify needed improvements. This article outlines how you can apply the highly related Steps Three and Four.

Step Three: Analyze Program Data, and If Necessary, Develop the Means to Collect Other Key Data
1. Review past audit reports and studies to establish a baseline for your performance measures.
2. Examine the present complement of performance measurement forms and reports to assess what is and isn't being measured (if it's not being measured, it's not being managed).
3. Recalling your program's strengths and weaknesses identified through Steps One and Two, conduct research on what the industry and your peers consider as effective measurements, and develop a list of the key indicators that your organization will monitor.
4. Selected indicators might include on-time performance rates, board and alight counts, parking occupancy and turnover rates, number and types of customer complaints, violation rates by type of parking regulation, employee absentee-vacancy rates, sick-leave use, capture rate assessments, origin-destination studies, etc.
5. While the above list could be infinite, select the critical measures that need to be tracked immediately and faithfully. But plan on adding other indicators that eventually will be tracked to fine-tune your program's performance.
6. Unless you're running a "mom and pop store" operation and collecting revenue in a cigar box - and you happen to be the owner and lone worker - dedicate at least one employee position to program analysis (see next item).
7. Of course, the number of analysts required depends on program age and scope - younger and larger, more help needed. Established programs and those with smaller areas to cover may need fewer analysts. Though rules of thumb for analyst staffing were once prevalent, it's a needs-based assessment that should be made today.
8. Display your data trends with performance charts, tables, comparisons with benchmarks, etc. - but for ticket-writing operations, use caution: The total number of tickets is neither the only nor the main indicator you want to track. It is the consequence of other performance indicators and various components of productivity that should be tracked anyway (which is a whole other article).
9. Subject your performance data to geographical analysis on macro and micro levels (central business district quadrants or campus "neighborhoods" versus underlying enforcement beats, meter collection routes and transit route service areas, for example).
10. Applying some form of a geographical information systems (GIS) analysis tool is an absolute must - be it a simple acetate overlay of a map with manually written performance results or a sophisticated GIS relational database.
11. Discuss the information with supervisors and line personnel to focus improvement actions on the factors that shape service quality and performance efficiency and effectiveness.
12. Establish an expectation, as well as the management processes, for establishing a cycle of collecting, reporting, interpreting and acting on the performance data. If you have the nerve to dive into the deep end of the performance indicator pool, don't just tread water after you rise to the surface. Swim out and use the information to convert that it to different manager, supervisor and employee behaviors. So schedule working meetings focused on the data, and develop action plans and "after-action" reviews among the organization's working groups.

Step Four: Conduct Field Activity Surveys
1. With staff, develop a list of potential survey methods, sites and times for peak and off-peak periods and locations. It's worth repeating the suggested indicators mentioned in Step Three, Item 4, which include, but are not limited to:
a. on-time performance rates;
b. board and alight counts;
c. parking occupancy and turnover rates;
d. violation rates by type of parking regulation;
e. capture rate assessments;
f. origin-destination studies;
g. running time checks for buses; and
h. driving time checks for automobiles, to name a few.
2. Develop frequency schedules and sampling rates for the surveys - from one or two survey "events" weekly to larger efforts involving more surveyors monthly, quarterly, annually, etc.
3. Develop an inventory of survey forms, and establish administrative controls over distributed and completed forms to positively track them during the survey phases, such as survey assignment, work-in-progress, quality assurance checks, and processing/analysis.
4. Select and train survey team leaders and complete the list of methods, locations, survey periods and sampling rates. Examples might include quarterly on-time performance checks of every transit route; monthly violation capture rate surveys on 25 percent of the enforcement beats, etc.
5. Develop a schedule for the surveys (days of week, times of day, number of repeated surveys, etc.), but leave room for supervisors and analysts to conduct ad-hoc surveys as dictated by data observations, public complaints, etc.
6. Develop survey staffing requirements based on the survey plan. Based on the surveys and time periods involved, you may need temporary employees and/or student workers to supplement analytical staff for large-scale surveys.
7. Coordinate written survey procedures with respect to governing legislation, performance criteria, and any supplemental operating guidelines and standards. For example, if your operating policy is not to cite a rush-hour parking violation until five minutes after the starting time posted, the surveyor also should wait for that same enforcement "window" to elapse before recording an un-ticketed violation.
8. Consider obtaining electronic or scanable data collection forms and related equipment (personal data assistants or scanning software or hardware) to gain efficiency over manual record processing and data tabulation.
9. Prepare surveyor maps and routes, preferably by using GIS software.
10. Provide surveyor training on applying enforcement guidelines, using manual and/or scanable data collection forms and/or PDAs, controlling and quality-checking the forms, etc.
11. Provide training and establish procedures for survey supervisors regarding control of survey forms, for monitoring and assisting surveyors in the field, for managing end-of-day procedures for form and equipment returns, and for tracking survey progress against the plan.
12. Personally lead the initial elements of the survey data collection process in the field, and periodically visit supervisors and field data collectors.
13. Assign staff to process the survey media and to generate products for analysis using maps, tables, charts, etc. Development of a relational database for analyzing the survey data and producing reports is ideal, as it can eliminate repetitious tasks for subsequent surveys, although spreadsheet analysis of survey information can also be effective, especially for ad-hoc, small-scale surveys.
14. Compare parking indicators with past performance and industry norms. For large survey undertakings, document findings and develop recommendations (as warranted) in a report.
15. Survey results can be used as performance feedback for all members of the organization and to re-focus work efforts.

Conclusion - Four Steps Down, One to Go
Establishing a process whereby performance information is consistently gathered, interpreted, reported and acted upon will help ensure service quality. It also will provide objective evidence of how well your organization is achieving its mission. In the next (and last) installment of this series, we'll review how to determine how well your program objectives are being supported by the parking and transportation infrastructure, and we'll finally assemble the "formula" for assessing the qualitative output of your organization.

Joseph P. Sciulli is Vice President and Senior Operations Consultant of Chance Management Advisors. He can be reached at joseph.sciulli@chancemanagement.com.

Article Abstract from February, 2006




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