Check out Kevin Warwood’s blog today on a issue that has intrigued me for years. The story is this — a town in central New Zealand installed sensors in their on street parking spaces. The sensors worked fine, so well in fact that the number of tickets they wrote went up by a factor of five. And therein lies the problem — A whole hell of a lot of people who were ‘skating by’ and not obeying the law were now being caught. Many just were grumpy, but most simply didn’t know they were breaking the law.
Kevin’s point is that when you marry new technology to old style enforcement, problems arise. And sometimes they are severe.
The money quotes from the article about the problem:
It was never legal. It was hard for wardens to pick up, but easy for sensors.
Mr Sandbrook said about 4-5 per cent of offenses were ticketed now, and although some people were just grumpy about being caught, others were genuinely bewildered and thought the rules had been changed.
Mr Sandbrook’s criticisms have been taken on the chin by Cr Duncan McCann, who has prepared some proposals on making parking better. to be discussed at a councillor workshop on Monday.
“Fundamentally, a lot of the problems are around the way the regime is enforced, which has nothing to do with Frogparking (The company that provided the sensors),” said Cr McCann.
“A lot of public anger has been directed at Frogparking, instead of at the council. We have to take responsibility for the way we are choosing to enforce, and for how we communicate,” Cr McCann said.
He said the combination of old enforcement attitudes and new technology had led to the popular public view that the system was all about revenue-gathering.
It was unfortunate for the city that many of the people caught out by the parking system were visitors from out of town.
Mr Sandbrook said Frogparking had been unreasonably blamed for driving parkers out of the central city, when that was more a function of the economic downturn.
He suggested the council could help even up the balance by matching The Plaza’s first-hour-free parking regime in other parts of the city.
One of Mr Sandbrook’s suggestions for using the sensor data constructively was to identify areas that were often empty, and either lower the fees there, or extend the time limit, or both.
“We can use the information to make positive changes.
“And it’s better for the council to have spaces full and being paid for, than empty and earning nothing.
“It would also help by making town look busier.”
As Kevin points out, citizens need to be up to date with the laws and enforcement no matter what technology is in place. Ad the New Zealand city kept it parkers informed of the rules and kept the pressure on with good enforcement practices, then when technology arrived and suddenly they had more tools for enforcement, the shock factor would not have been so great.