Magazine

The Multi-Use Facility

Monthly Permit Control Key at Shopping Mall

John Van Horn

Few would think that one of the biggest headaches in a multi-use facility that is mainly a shopping village would be accounting for and controlling monthly parking. But it is.
With retail, restaurants, entertainment and residential, Paseo Colorado in downtown Pasadena, CA, is one of these. Its three garages, 3,000 spaces and more than 3,000 monthly contract parkers were a challenge for Johnny Bermeo, facility manager for Modern Parking, when he took over the garage in 2005.
“There had been many different levels of access based customer accounts established when the garage opened in 2000, Berneo told PT. Accounts receivable was a nightmare. I would have preferred to simply not invoice, and have people who didn’t pay each month turned off, but the owner wanted to maintain a “friendly” relationship with the customers.
In this case, Bermeo worked for three bosses: the city of Pasadena that owns the land and the garage operation; the developer that owns and runs the 72-store shopping mall they prefer to call a “village”; and the two apartment blocks that rise at either end of the complex.
“It’s not unusual for these types of operations to have a number of different stakeholders. We are hired by the city, but we provide services to all three,” Bermeo said.
“We began to look for a way to provide some tools for the operator,” said Holly Imler, Acting Parking Manager with the city’s Department of Parking and Transportation. “It’s difficult to hold them accountable if you don’t support them with resources to do their job.”
One of those resources was a full-blown accounting and AR program designed for the parking industry and focused right at Bermeo’s problem.
“The new system gave us a reason to reach out to all contract parkers and require that they update their information with us. We revised our forms, added payment rules, and had each parker or company basically reapply for parking. Then we entered all the data into the new system.
“It was a tremendous effort, but worth it,” Imler said. “Our revenues have been steadily increasing in the nine months since we installed the software. Plus, we now have additional information about income, receivables and occupancy we simply didn’t have in the past.”
The system, provided by Integrapark, works in concert with the revenue control equipment, in this case, Skidata.
“The AR software tells the revenue control (card) system which cards are paid and should work and which cards should be denied access,” said Bermeo. “One of the biggest problems in running parallel AR and card systems is that an account can be unpaid in one but a card left on in the other.
“We invoice toward the end of each month, and the customer must pay by the 5th. We then can block unpaid cards and not turn them back on until the account is brought current,” he said. This system works well operationally for all levels of use and customer account types.”
“I can, through the AR system, globally block cards with a single command. In this case, I do it in groups, blocking some on the first day after payment is due, others a few days later and so forth. This gives some of the clients a bit more time (large companies sometimes can’t issue checks by the 6th), and it also ensures that we don’t have 300 or 400 people all jamming the lanes trying to get out, or in, at the same time. Remember – we are a multi-use facility, and many of our customers are daily parkers coming to shop. Convenience to the transient parker is important.
“The software allows us to enter not only the contact data about the parkers, but also the information concerning the contract agreement that was made with the tenant or individual. Specific instructions are then entered in the system so it knows how much to invoice each account, when each account is to be deactivated, and just how many cards each account is allowed based on their lease with the city or the developer.
“In facilities with many different types of tenants – from individuals who don’t work or live in the complex to residents and employees of major tenants – rates and terms of use can be very different,” Bermeo said. “Tracking these arrangements manually is sometimes almost impossible. With this system, you simply call up the account and everything is right before you.”
He mentioned that although the accounting software can globally “block and unblock” access cards, those with proper access to the card system’s terminal can override or issue cards separately. “This is of some concern; however, the card system has passwords and levels of access, and only a few of my managers have the ability to use those functions.”
In addition, the accounting software can provide a list of all cards “active” in the revenue system and compare that with those who are currently paid. This “exception” list can then be used to ensure that only paid cards have access to the facility.
The city receives occupancy reports and daily revenue reports from the revenue system, and reports on the monthly status, accounts receivable and revenue from the accounting software. All information about an account can be gleaned from the software, including payment history and the number of cards issued.
Card tracking, ins and outs, is handled by the revenue control equipment.
To accommodate transient parkers, the facility has in place a validation system and if you visit any store or restaurant, you can receive a 90 minute validation. The system will accept either validation coupons issued to stores by the facility operator parking office, or thermal validation stamps printed directly on the entry ticket by machines (Valometers). Bermeo prefers the Valometers.
“Thermal validation machines are pricy, but they reduce the possibility of misuse of the validations. With the coupons, a person can visit 10 stores and get 10 coupons. Only one is valid per exit, however they can keep them and use them in the future. Also, the cashiers can collect them (find them on the ground around the Pay on Foot stations or exit areas) and use them to validate tickets that are full payment. That’s $2 lost for each one.”
The facility accepts credit cards to pay for monthly parking, and beginning in the near future will offer the option of automatically charging them each month for the amount of the parking fees. This is an added feature of the parking accounting software.
“We have been impressed with the software, the start-up and training,” said Imler, who attended the training sessions along with the operations staff. “The system is so all-encompassing that it wasn’t until we actually started using it that we discovered all the features and how they could apply to our wants and needs.”

Imler can be reached at himler@cityofpasadena.net. For more
information about Integrapark, log on to www.integrapark.com.

Article Abstract from March, 2007




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