Increasing Revenue by Increasing Customer Services & Satisfaction
By Heather Sieber
The National Parking Association (NPA) is providing this page of information for Parking Today readers. Editor
On-street parking is a hot topic, whether discussing the multitude of “smart” parking meters on the market, handheld enforcement devices, public/private partnerships, outsourcing or increasing rates.
Recently, Downtown Tempe (AZ) Community (DTC) examined its on-street parking program to determine what changes could be made to increase revenue and efficiency while making the program more customer friendly. The DTC, a private business district organization, works in partnership with the city of Tempe.
The operations and parking staff took the following steps:
Reviewed Occupancy Trends
Occupancy trends were evaluated to determine whether rates and time limits were correct throughout the downtown. One of the issues uncovered was that stopping meter enforcement hours at 6 p.m. was actually detrimental to district businesses.
While demand for on-street parking in many downtowns slows after 6 p.m., in Downtown Tempe it increases. This is one of the many benefits of having the nation’s largest university – Arizona State University – in proximity, along with the many restaurants, nightclubs and shops that populate the downtown.
When the idea of extending meter times until 10 p.m. was first proposed, it was met with opposition by owners concerned about declining business. An analysis showed that the majority of downtown customers could not use these spaces because they were being occupied all evening by employees. Most had assigned off-street parking; however, with meters not being enforced in the evening, they found it more convenient to park in front of their place of employment.
Although the downtown did not suffer from a parking shortage, there was a general perception that parking spaces were not available at the most convenient times and in the most convenient locations.
Upgraded Meters: Single-Space or Multi-Space?
The next step in the review process was to look at upgrading the existing meters with either newer, credit card-enabled single-space meters or multi-space meters. Most stakeholders strongly favored the single-space meter, especially if a credit card option were available.
After an analysis of several return-on-investment scenarios and detailed research into several different types of equipment, it was determined that a combination of multi-space and single-space meters would work. Space sensors, mobile parking applications and pay-by-cell services were also examined.
A limited rollout of credit card-enabled, single-space meters equipped with sensors for spaces with the greatest demand was planned. Pay-by-cell service was deployed to all meters, including the newly updated credit card-enabled ones. Lastly, the decision was made to extend meter hours until 10 p.m.
Communicated Enforcement Policies
Enforcement was one area that had to be reviewed quickly, because the operations and parking staff was soon scheduled to take over enforcement from the police department.
Due to budget cuts and a busy police department, enforcement was inconsistent and left merchants and patrons confused. During the first month of the enforcement program rollout, warning notices were issued instead of live tickets for expired meters.
Changed the Name
Also, the department name was changed from “Parking Enforcement” to “Parking Compliance.” With consistent meter monitoring and compliance officers taking every opportunity to educate first and enforce second, the program became well-respected in very short order.
A Win-Win for All
As a result of these actions, including acceptance of credit cards and consistent enforcement, parking revenue increased by 22%. The goal was to offer better customer service with the hopes that the costs of these added services would be paid for by the expected increase in revenue.
Many lessons were learned during this process, and as a result, there is a long-term plan in place that will improve the experience of the downtown business district visitor while accommodating the merchants.
CPPs Learn the Municipal Ins and Outs
The NPA’s core competency program helps parking professionals develop the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to help them effectively perform the job of a Certified Parking Professional. CPP candidates, during their coursework, learn valuable information about municipalities and the challenges associated with on- and off-street parking. For more information about earning the CPP designation, go to www.NPApark.org.
Heather Sieber, VP of Marketing and Communications for the NPA, can be reached at HSieber@npapark.org.
Parts of this article written by Adam Jones, of Downtown Tempe Community, are reprinted with permission of the NPA’s Parking magazine.