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‘eCitations’: Taking Enforcement Into the Digital Age

August 1, 2017

Kevin Uhlenhaker

Traditionally, university and college campuses have been on the leading edge for adopting new ideas, methods and technologies. They generally provide a safe location for ideas to be conceived, tested and proven before being introduced into the larger world for wider adoption.  On-campus parking operations are no exception to this rule.


Across America, these operations are leading the way for innovation in the parking industry. One of those advances is the move from physical parking citations to electronic ones, or “eCitations.” The shift is gaining popularity at campuses across the U.S., and the adoption rate of this new approach is showing no signs of slowing. 


An eCitation is an electronic parking citation. Instead of the traditional physical citations process, which includes printing a citation and placing it somewhere on the vehicle once issued, an eCitation is delivered via an electronic method (typically email) or physical mailed to the parker. These eCitations can be issued from handhelds, mobile LPR units, back office systems and even fixed LPR cameras.


eCitations provide countless benefits with enforcement efficiency, officer safety, consistent coverage and increased revenue, among many others.


The statistics for moving from a visual parking verification process, with officers on foot or bike, to an automated parking verification enforcement model, using mobile or fixed license plate recognition (LPR) cameras, are well documented.


A mobile LPR equipped vehicle can practically read 150 license plates per minute, but when combined with eCitations, these efficiencies grow even greater.


Consider the time spent by enforcement officers delivering a physical citation from a mobile LPR unit. For every violation, they have to stop, print the citation, exit the unit, place the citation on the vehicle, and then re-enter the unit. Conservatively, this process takes 30 seconds per physical citation.


For an organization such as Sam Houston State University (SHSU) in Huntsville, TX, (which wrote about 22,000 citations last year), switching to eCitations – with zero time spent on delivery – amounted to a time savings of 11,000 seconds (or 23 8-hour days) over the course of a year. Imagine what your organization could do with 23 extra employee days per year! The increased efficiency of eCitations directly improves the efficiency of your overall operation.


For many organizations, the increased efficiency of eCitations combined with the speed of mobile LPR leads to increased enforcement coverage of parking spaces, as well as an increase in parking citations.


SHSU, for example, experienced a dramatic one-year citation increase of 127% after converting from physical citations to eCitations. Similarly, Florida International University in Miami had a 106% increase over the same 10-month timeframe in 2017, compared to 2016.


Many people believe that after the initial spike in citations, the following years will dip back down below previous levels. One of the earliest adopters of eCitations, Texas Tech University (TTU) in Lubbock, found this not to be the case. In the years after it moved to eCitations in 2014, TTU has seen the number of citations issued per year decrease only about 7% below its highest mark and stayed at that number for more than the past three years.


Baylor university, in Waco, TX, uses eCitations. According to Matt Penney, Director of Parking and Transportation Services, they use LPR technology and citations are issued directly from the enforcement vehicle.


Perhaps not surprisingly, after making the shift to eCitations, some customers complain that the parking department is suddenly writing “too many tickets.” This complaint stems from the previous impression that, even when parking illegally, the violator wouldn’t be guaranteed to receive a ticket. Interestingly, this idea applies only to ungated parking locations.


If the same type of complaints were made about a gated parking access and revenue control (PARC) system – “It won’t let me leave until I pay” or “It allows me access only when I am allowed to be in the garage” – these complaints would be dismissed as ridiculous. If it worked any different, it would be considered broken.


However, this has become the norm for many visual enforcement situations where, due to limits in technology or workforce, only a portion of total spaces are consistently patrolled and enforced. Fortunately, the efficiencies provided by a mobile LPR and eCitations system allows operations to ensure that everyone parking on campus has permission to do so, much like current PARC systems that ensure that everyone who enters or exits a facility has the authorization to do so.


Many of us have seen posts where students gloat on social media that they have been parking illegally for years without being ticketed, while other students claim they’re being targeted unfairly because they get a ticket a couple of times a month.


The efficiencies of eCitations provide the opportunity for even, consistent, campus-wide coverage. Furthermore, this regular coverage increases not only parking citations, but also permit sales, and drives many other transportation-related programs such as carpooling, bus usage and even bike riding.


Once parkers know that the system works consistently every time they use it, then they can make more informed choices about how to get to campus. These lead to better parking behavior, lower stress levels, and an overall happier parking public.


An unfortunately common situation is the abuse of officers from disgruntled parkers. Officers who scan vehicles and issue eCitations from within the safety of an LPR-equipped vehicle are less likely to endure confrontations than those who patrol on foot. Additionally, the system allows an officer to pull over into a safe area to issue the eCitations, avoiding walking in drive lanes or around vehicles.


Enforcement officers’ safety is a primary concern for parking operators, and eCitations is designed to provide extensive safety benefits to those officers.


An ever-growing number of college and university customers are making the switch to eCitations, because they recognize that the technology allows them to improve their parking operations, while increasing the overall customer service provided by the department. Sometimes, a little change can be good; for campuses using eCitations, this change has been great.


Kevin Uhlenhaker is the Co-Founder and CEO at NuPark.You can contact him at: kevin.uhlenhaker@nupark.com.



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