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UPsafety InCites

09.20.17

Dollars & Sense
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By UPsafety Team Member:
Jim Hornberger of United Public Safety

Compliance is critical in municipal parking enforcement, but ticket revenue pays the bills and paves the way for streamlined processes; efficiencies that can only be achieved through embracing technology.

In a fairly short period of time, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with over a thousand municipal departments about their parking operations from enforcement, permit management, monitoring, timed spaces, meters, kiosks, pay to park and so much more. Always with the intent to provide value and benefit to the prospective departments, I strive to determine where United Public Safety’s solutions would fix a problem. I hear about a lot of parking enforcement problems in a day. This can mean uncovering a few critical facts, or really diving in and understanding current processes and what future objectives may exist within a department.

Sometimes a department has not considered operational improvements in many years and they stick with the hum of manual processes. There is no driving factor that exists to create change. The problem can then be that enforcement is sporadic and population increases, or that one annual event requires parking permits or a handful of tickets do not get paid and there is no notification process. If a department is going to enforce there has to be infrastructure in case the simple process fails and a more complicated one must ensue. I have found this is why many departments limit the amount they ticket, not realizing any enforcement, five tickets or five thousand, requires a process that occurs after the ticket is written.

One complaint that I hear often comes from municipalities that are writing a low number of tickets and dealing with a high level of ticket disputes/dismissals. When I delve farther on these calls, I discover these departments often lack a process for parking enforcement beyond the initial creation of the ticket itself. Often on these calls I am told there are not enough tickets written to consider an electronic solution and there is no money within the department for technology purchases. The same people that tell me this must endure numerous calls from citizens looking to dispute tickets.

Whether a department is seeking compliance or revenue it is important to bite the bullet and realize they are closely related.

With further investigation, I realize many of these departments really have no interest in revenue from parking tickets but they are forced into writing tickets to create compliance. And if the department doesn’t institute a protocol for processing parking tickets and parking tickets are not currently considered a source of recognizable revenue, this stance will trickle down through all operational areas. Whether a department is seeking compliance or revenue it is important to bite the bullet and realize they are closely related. If a citizen knows a department will not pursue payment and is likely to dismiss tickets in dispute, why wouldn’t a citizen dispute rather than pay? I ask myself (and anyone who will listen) is there a department out there that does not require revenue for operations and growth? Manual parking enforcement is fraught with outdated processes and is expensive.

With the right support and guidance it’s painless to put a new, technology driven solution in place from issuance to processing and infrastructure to deal with the entire ticketing process. Best news? The solution should pay for itself from day one.

Simply providing something that reduces contested tickets is certainly not a reason to change a system, but I can’t help but think this is a fundamental issue. How much is it costing to create due process for a contested ticket? Do we even have a way of calculating that today? Let’s look at this from a simple dollars and cents standpoint; that simple parking ticket, can easily end up costing us much more than the cost of paper and time to write the ticket.

A department that recognizes parking tickets as a source of revenue is more eager to refine processes, including dealing with contested tickets. We derive revenue from this process, so let’s make sure we do it right. But forget about parking tickets for a moment, this strategy can be applied anywhere. If you’re a company that sells widgets, you may never consider how much of your revenue comes from consulting dollars. Why? We usually do some consulting work for our clients but barely ever charge for it and never considered it could be a source of revenue. The point here is that it already is! The company might as well review it operationally and financially. Become more educated and possibly create a whole new revenue stream; even if that revenue is small, it is realized.

My intent in documenting my observations is to draw some attention to operational misconceptions. Perhaps take a look at current processes and if you’re lucky, there may be someone like me out there who genuinely wants to help your department create efficiencies and move ahead with technology. If I can help, please contact me at jhornberger@upsafety.net