Revival in Motor City

by Julianne Wilhelm

 

Gone are the days where Detroit’s mainstay in the news revolved around being the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy. Today, the citizens of Detroit are regaining what was once lost; trust and reliability in the city’s municipal systems. Though rebuilding the struggling city was problematic enough, the city knew it would also have to win back it’s people to bring business, enterprise and young professionals, growing the economic development the city so desperately needed.

In 2015, Detroit’s Municipal Parking Department took on the challenge.

 

Out with the Old

In the years leading up to economic recovery in 2015, just about everything was due for a facelift. Posing alongside overflowing city trash bins and unkempt pedestrian sidewalks stood parking meters that were anything but reliable.

“The city was growing and we needed reliable parking to support it,” said Norman White, Director of Detroit’s Municipal Parking Department,

Old meters surrounding new attractions were causing problems, hindering locals and citizens from having a pleasant parking experience. From years of wear, the meters would often breakdown, but with no online maintenance flag installed, the service techs wouldn’t know until a customer complained. Unreliable meters also meant ticket errors, causing even more disgruntled customers who now lost trust in the system.

“We had no proof of payment if the meter made an error,” said Keith Hutchings, Deputy Director of the Detroit Municipal Parking Department, “Having no proof of payment made it challenging to address grievances.” The consumer confidence in the system was failing and with it, one of the city’s streams of reliable revenue. 

“We found it hard to have confidence in the meters,” said Hutchings, “We knew we were losing revenue left and right.”

To get an accurate recording of how revenue passed through the meters was challenging. There was no electronic communication inside the machines to determine how much revenue was received until it was collected and counted by hand.

In addition, it was difficult to maintain the chain-of-custody from the moment the coins were collected to when they were deposited. “The entire process was risky,” said White.

 

A Million Dollar Decision

Toward the end of December 2014, the Detroit Municipal Parking Department had to make a decision. Do they privatize the parking system in Detroit? By doing so, the city would transfer its control and responsibility to an outside company that would manage it all. Or should the Municipal Parking Department take on the challenge of correcting the problem on its own?

“After several presentations, I understood the lure of how much money we could make in that moment…to sell it off to a private company,” said White, “but I had to look at the type of control the city would have to give up.” White and his staff knew the people of the city of Detroit. They understood what the citizens would be ready for when it came down to extensive changes in parking.

“While at some point we will recognize the need to increase prices,” said Hutchings, “by maintaining control, we could ensure that people can afford to go downtown. There was simply a better case for the city to manage the parking system.”

 

In with the New

With the decision to keep parking under the authority of the city, and the knowing that the only way for that decision to be successful was to bring back consumer confidence, White and his team were ready to select a complete parking solution. The perfect fit? Cale America’s CWT Pay-by-License-Plate solar charged meters.

“We felt that if we could develop a more integrated system, we could increase revenue, maintain control and satisfy customer needs. Cale joined forces to help make those goals reality,” said Hutchings.

In July of 2015, 500 CWT kiosks were installed, stretching throughout Downtown Detroit including the business, medical, entertainment, cultural and new development areas in Detroit.

 

Success

Innovation

With the city of Detroit making its way back on the map, the department knew they needed a solution that would attract business professionals and the younger demographics. It had to be innovative, flexible and easy to use.

“The new kiosks were driven by simplicity,” said Hutchings, “people could pay at the kiosk using a credit card or coin, use the mobile payment app, or even call in a parking session.”

Hutchings adds that recently the city has become a ‘walking town’ where locals feel confident that they can park at a meter, walk around the city, and add time to their session via their phone. White notes that this has fed even more into the revival of the city. With more people parking and walking, there’s more sidewalk traffic, prompting new businesses to open and older ones to thrive.

Meter Down-Time

With the software from the new CWT kiosks, downtime reduced drastically. Compared to the old meters that didn’t have a notification system that could result in a meter being down for days, the new kiosks automatically sent out a maintenance flag that helped reduced down-time to just minutes.

 “The downtime of meters has improved tremendously because of the technology and Cale’s technical support,” said White. “We only have small issues now, and when we do, a tech is out there instantly. This has played a role in increasing our revenues and reducing customer complaints significantly.”

Consumer Compliance & Confidence

With the previous coin meter system, there was no proof of payment, leaving customers to question transactions and reliability. White explains that the Backoffice system records the Parking Enforcement Officers, LPR vehicles and payment history activities to pull it all together. Everyone is on the same page.

“We all have access to view the payment in one way or another. The customer can go online and see pictures and we can view it in the back-office system,” said White.

“The people don’t feel like it’s a ‘gotcha’ kind of system,” said White. “The over-all confidence in the department has changed tremendously. It’s like a new company.”

Revenue

Since CWT meter installation in 2015, revenue has been increasing annually. White notes that exact meter revenue from the old, unautomated systems was difficult to determine, but was estimated to be 1.7 million in 2015. In 2017, the department has more than tripled the same revenues. Everything is collected, counted and recorded with automated and innovative technology. 

 

A City Revived

From entertainment venues, sports complexes, increased work force and nightlife environment, the city has given its citizens back trust and a promising future of economic health. With the day-time traffic at its highest and the evenings booming for events, the usage of the entire city is ever-growing.

Moving forward, the city will be adding more CWT kiosks and looking into Residential Permit Parking to ease the flow of event parking into neighborhoods.

“We were thriving on chaos,” said White, attributing the revival to the need for change, “But I’m a numbers guy – we have data to back up the changes made to the parking system to this point.”

Keith adds, “The landscape is changing. The entire downtown is looking like a world class city more than you’ve seen before.”

 

 

Posted: 11 May 18

For nearly half a century, the state of Colorado has been a leader in the stewardship of land, environment and sustainability, striving to achieve cleaner air, water and public health for its residents. On any given crisp, cool day, you can see bikers, mountain climbers, hikers and runners taking in the clean air and well-protected scenery.  It is no wonder, then, that the state’s natural landmarks are the first to be protected from potential threats, most recently addressed, vehicle congestion at Chautauqua Park.

The Client: Colorado Chautauqua

Boasting as one of Colorado’s top National Historic Landmarks, Chautauqua Park brings in more than half a million visitors each year. The landmark stretches 26 acres of land, adjoining public Open Space and Mountain Parks on two sides. The space is often used for hiking and recreational activities, while also drawing large crowds to ‘The Auditorium,’ a space that hosts live artists and educators; the likes of cellist Yo-Yo Ma and B.B. King, along with Stephen King and Rev. Jesse Jackson, among others. As such, the Chautauqua remains committed to preserving the area’s natural and cultural resources, it’s surrounding neighborhoods and continuing its historical and educational programs.

In recent years, as the city of Boulder rises in popularity (most recently being rated as the happiest city in America by National Geographic in 2017[1](1), the Colorado Chautauqua has faced a variety of issues. The bulk of those issues come from one popular supply & demand matter: Parking.

Background:

The City of Boulder and the Colorado Chautauqua Association (CCA) came together in 2015 when both parties acknowledged that the Chautauqua was facing difficulties in visitor transportation and mobilization.

For a variety of reasons, the vast majority of visitors arrive at the Chautauqua area by automobile. This situation, combined with the popularity of this area, creates traffic congestion, parking congestion and high greenhouse gas emission levels.  In addition, several visitors park in the neighborhoods around the baseline of the park, which although permissible, has become a problem for permanent residents living in the area.

The following issues were summarized for Chautauqua Park:

  • Inadequate parking supply for peak times during the year.
  • Parking issues in the surrounding neighborhoods.
    • Quality of life for residents
    • Finding a place to park
    • Vehicle circulation issues
  • Pedestrian Access issues to Chautauqua Park:
    • Drivers not yielding to pedestrians at crosswalks.
    • Overcrowded parked vehicles encroaching pedestrian walk areas.

“The parties [The City of Boulder and the CCA] recognize that during peak periods, parking demand for all uses with and around Chautauqua far exceeds supply. Chautauqua needs a tailored access management strategy to balance the access of the variety of users and modes while also maintaining the natural, built, and historic environments. The movement of vehicles looking for parking presents safety issues and degrades the visitor experience. "

- From the 2015 lease signed between Colorado Chautauqua Association (CCA) and City of Boulder[2]

 

Planning:

To find a solution to these specific issues, the Chautauqua Access Management Plan (CAMP) was created. CAMP explored ways to manage existing demand for access to and from the Chautauqua area that minimized impacts to surrounding neighbors, visitors, and the area’s natural and cultural resources.

The CAMP pilot program was hence implemented to test a solution for 3 months in the summer of 2017. This ‘pilot program’ would manage parking in the Chautauqua historic core and surrounding neighborhoods and provide FREE shuttle service to and from Chautauqua from downtown and nearby parking lots. Once the 3-month test was completed, the City of Boulder would assess the results for permanent implementation.

The Goal:

The City of Boulder defined the following goals to be met during the testing period:

  • Increased use of the free shuttle to and from Chautauqua.
  • Reduction in traffic volume on Chautauqua’s Baseline Road/Increased parking supply for peak times during the year.
  • Reduction of conflicts between automobiles and pedestrians in highly trafficked areas.
  • Reasonable compliance with parking restrictions.
  • Reduction of parking throughout adjacent neighborhoods.

The Strategy:

To balance the entry of the variety of users and modes while also maintaining the natural, built, and historic environments, the City of Boulder chose to place 5 CALE CWT Pay-by-Plate Meters along the baseline of Chautauqua in 5 specific ‘Paid Parking’ Zones (Chautauqua Green, Ranger Cottage Lot, Baseline Road, McClintok Trailhead and North Neighborhood temporary NPP zone). The expectation was that a portion of visitors to Chautauqua would park in one of the alternative lots off site, taking the new free shuttle into the park. The shuttle would be funded by revenue collected by those who parked in ‘Paid Parking’ meter zones. During the 3 months, “Parking Ambassadors” would be put in place to answer questions about parking and shuttling, along with paid digital marketing to inform visitors before they arrived.

The CALE CWT Meters would be actively tested June 2017- August 2017. From a series of surveys and research finding peak visitor times[3], it was determined that the meters would be active solely on weekends from 8am to 5pm in the 5 specific areas. This totaled to 26 days, over 13 weekends. The meters would operate in pay-by-plate mode which uses the customer’s license plate to identity the vehicle’s status in Cale WebOffice. This allows compatibility with mobile payment platforms (such as WayToPark) along with supporting license plate recognition software for identification and enforcement purposes.

“The fact that the Cale CWT meters were compatible with mobile payment apps was very important in this process,” said Melissa Yates, Access & Parking Manager for the City of Boulder, “Pedestrian foot traffic in the roads was already an issue. We wanted to minimize the risk of going back-and-forth to their vehicles to feed a meter, but instead enjoy all of their time inside Chautauqua Park.

Results:

Through data analysis[4], community questionnaires and a stakeholder debrief, city staff determined that several goals were met through the 3-month test pilot. Due to 5 Cale CWT meter installations, the following ensued:

  • Increase use of the free shuttle to and from Chautauqua: Not only did the meters help to balance the amount of traffic at the Chautauqua baseline, the free shuttle ridership was a success. On average, 900 Chautauqua guests per day used the offsite parking to take the free shuttle into the park on the weekend. In addition, 10% of Chautauqua employees used the shuttle to get to/leave work, even though they had their own employee parking zone. 
  • Reduction in traffic volume on Chautauqua’s Baseline Road/Increase in parking supply: On average, there was a 20% decrease in cars parked in the 5 Paid Parking zones, including Chautauqua’s Baseline Road, resulting in an increase in parking supply. Including all parking areas, there was an average of 768 daily parking transactions during the pilot and a total of 19,958 paid parking transactions made specifically over the 13 weekends from 8am to 5pm. 
  • Reduction of conflicts between automobiles and pedestrians in highly trafficked residential areas: Chautauqua staff and ‘cottagers’ (part home-owners, part renters) expressed great satisfaction with the pilot, finding it easier to park within proximity to their residences or rental lodging, but also appreciation for the reduction in cars circling for parking. When surveyed, several people specifically noted that it was quieter within the historic core than it had been in past summers and the increased sense of safety was prevalent. 
  • Reasonable Compliance with parking restrictions: Of the paid parking transactions, 64% used one of the five payment kiosks and 36% (7,216) used a mobile payment app. On some days, there were even more mobile payment transactions at Chautauqua than downtown

Parking enforcement regularly enforced the pilot parking zones to ensure compliance within the specific areas. An average of 49 violations were cited each day of the 26-day pilot. Most violations were cited in the temporary ‘No Paid Parking’ zone, which was reserved for employees of the park, with significantly fewer violations occurring in the other five zones. 

  • Reduction of parking throughout adjacent neighborhoods: Throughout the ‘Paid Parking’ neighborhood zones around Chautauqua Park, fewer cars were parked in the study area in 2017 than in 2016, even during the weekdays when paid parking was not in place. On weekends, 48 fewer cars per hour were observed, and 35 fewer cars per hour were observed on weekdays during the pilot. When surveyed, residents within the neighborhoods reported positive results from the pilot, including less parking congestion, greater ability to access their own homes during the peak day time hours, and less trash and noise from parkers. 
  • Additional Success: Though the goal was not to make a profit from this pilot testing period, the total revenue made from the 5 CALE CWT Pay-by-Plate meters was $120,497. Of this, $80,000 was used to pay for the free shuttle, leaving $40,000 remaining in profit.

In addition, due to larger groups of pedestrians getting off of the shuttle to Chautauqua at once, there was an observed increase in driver compliance for yielding to pedestrians, from 74% in 2016 to 95% during the pilot in 2017. As stated by the City of Boulder Council Members, “Compliance generally improves with higher pedestrian volumes,” which resulted in unforeseen added safety measures. 

Summary:

By implementing 5 CALE CWT Pay-by-Plate meters, the City of Boulder, combined with the Chautauqua Access Management Plan, successfully addressed current and potential transportation and mobility issues at the National Historic Landmark, Chautauqua National Park. The creation of 5 ‘Paid Parking’ zones in the highest trafficked areas surrounding Chautauqua park encouraged visitors to use the free shuttle and park their vehicles offsite.

In addition to increased parking availability and less traffic congestion, heightened pedestrian safety was noticeable on all fronts. Less cars reportedly prompted drivers to drive with more ease and yield to pedestrians, while groups of shuttle riders getting off at once also increased drivers’ yielding. Residents in the surrounding area reported satisfaction with the pilot results, noting less parking congestion, greater ability to access their own homes during the peak day time hours, and less trash and noise from parkers.

In an unforeseen result, the program’s revenue was substantially more than projected. After paying for the free shuttle with paid parking revenue, an additional $40,497 was left for future projects. 

As documented in the 2017 Pilot Debrief by the City of Boulder Council Chambers[5], the CAMP Pilot Program was an ultimate success and should be an ongoing funded program for a period of 5 years. After evaluating the data collection, stakeholder debriefs and community input, staff recommends that the majority of program components remain the same, extending the program to include holiday weekends such as Labor Day and Memorial Day.

“The type of meter chosen for this project was vital,” concludes Melissa Yates, Access & Parking Manager for the City of Boulder, “We needed one that had a strong back-end system, terminals that were easy to use by visitors, and of course, was compatible with mobile app payment. We chose CALE because of their track record for service and product reliability.”

 

About Cale America:

Cale Group incorporates over 60 years of experience in the design and development of secure and innovative payment solutions for unattended parking and transit locations with cloud-based management applications. Headquartered in Kista, Sweden, the Cale Group has subsidiaries in ten countries and a network of partners in over 30 countries worldwide.Cale America Inc. was established in 2012 and is Cale’s largest subsidiary with systems installed in over 200 municipalities, campuses and privately-managed properties throughout the US, Puerto Rico and Bermuda.

 

[1]  https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/north-america/united-states/happiest-cities-united-states-2017/

[2]  https://bouldercolorado.gov/transportation/chautauqua-access-management-plan?utm_source=godaddy&utm_medium=redirect&utm_campaign=chautauquaaccessmanagementplan.com

[3]  https://www-static.bouldercolorado.gov/docs/2012_CAMP_Data_Packet-1-201608011116.pdf?_ga=2.63891692.2120839604.1515093140-325034520.1509637799

[4] https://www-static.bouldercolorado.gov/docs/2012_Chautauqua_Parking_Study_Report_FINAL-1-201602021003.pdf?_ga=2.113012036.1128336139.1510695896-325034520.1509637799

[5]  file:///C:/Users/Julianne%20Wilhelm/Downloads/Agenda_2017_10_24_Meeting(87)%20(3).pdf

Posted: 19 Jan 18
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