Rochester, MN, Revenue System Joined at the Hip
John Van Horn
“I can’t stress the importance of having the customer involved in the installation,” says Dan Stublaski, President of Don Harstad Co., which installed the city’s new revenue control system in Rochester, MN.
“The city’s maintenance staff worked alongside our crews during the installation process. They bought into the system. This means they become part of the process, and will work to ensure that the system performs as it should.
“I think this may be one of the most important parts of any new project. The customer should be involved at every level. If we go in, install the system, bring it up, make it work and then hand them the keys, the connection isn’t there. We aren’t providing a new car.”
The system in Rochester covers four city garages with a total of 25 lanes of equipment. There is a central data-gathering computer, but each garage runs independently.
“We had some challenges,” Stublaski says. “We were replacing equipment that had been in place for over two decades. The technology was jumping several generations. The staff at the city was used to 1980s technology, and we were installing state-of-the-art. We had to not only train the operator, but the customer too.
“Another challenge involved implementation without disrupting the garage operation,” he says. “We couldn’t shut down a garage and install the equipment. We had to do it one lane at a time. After we finished the first facility, we had a built-in pause in the installation schedule. This gave the operator and users time to learn and embrace the new technology. Then we continued the installation.”
The city elected not to install pay-on-foot; however, it is prepared for that eventuality when it is ready. They saw the need to maintain human interaction for some of their patrons, while offering quicker throughput for those who are comfortable using the credit card in/out application.
Although each garage operates as a stand-alone unit, all sit on the city’s fiber network. “All data and activity from each garage can be viewed and programs changed from any workstation or fee computer within that garage,” Stublaski says, “and all data can be viewed and processed at the central city office. Having that ability was extremely important to the owner.”
Two hotels use the garages in the system. There are workstations in the hotels where the front desk staff can create temporary access cards with start and stop dates so hotel guests can freely use the facilities with in/out privileges.
The city provides free parking for the first half hour. Repeat customers know they don’t have to wait for the booth attendant, but if they are within that half hour, can insert their tickets in an exit column and exit without human interaction. Credit card users also can use this facility. This greatly increases throughput in the lanes and cuts exit times.
Intercoms are networked throughout the facilities. After-hours, the intercoms roll over to the telephone network, and when a call is received, the system begins calling a series of numbers until an available person answers. This ensures that the customer receives human interaction whenever there is a problem. Each incoming intercom call is logged with time and originating location so the operator can track response times and locations possibly needing service.
Monthly parkers are controlled with an AVI system, which also speeds up exit times. The system includes an accounts receivable package for all four facilities.
“Although our office is just over an hour’s drive away and we can provide timely service, having the staff maintenance person engaged and trained makes a big difference,” Stublaski says. He can resolve minor issues that are not true service problems and save considerable time and expense for the customer.
“Having a good service provider is critical in these systems,” he says, “but having a person on-site who works closely with us makes life much easier for the customer. The vast majority of issues are minor and can be resolved quickly without a service call. I would strongly recommend that every customer become involved in the installation and service of their new system.”
The city of Rochester chose Skidata as its equipment provider. The Parking Operator for the city was Republic Parking.