On-Street Enforcement Technology: How to Make the Right Investment


On-Street Enforcement Technology: How to Make the Right Investment

Editor’s note: Julie Dixon has supported parking operations in West Hollywood, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. She also has assisted myriad cities in making their enforcement operations first-class. We asked her back to PIE this year, because hers was one of the best-attended and most talked-about seminars of all of 2014. Don’t miss it. JVH
Parking technology can be overwhelming!
Whether trying to figure out which handheld to purchase for your enforcement staff or wondering how to integrate your parking meter with your pay-by-phone provider, this PIE 2015 session will prepare you for how to strategically and incrementally address your parking technology decisions.
The discussion will focus on how to identify and define your project objectives, and not only selecting the best overall solution for your community, but more important, making choices that can adapt and develop with the evolution of your on-street parking program.
(The Parking Industry Exhibition, sponsored by Parking Today, will be March 29-April 1 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, IL.)
Technology can be expensive, and today’s choices will have a lasting impact, which emphasizes the importance of making the right choices. One recommendation that will be discussed during this PIE seminar will focus on incremental investments.
If we design an effective and economical program, the solutions should be adaptable and can be integrated with one another. If we are making smaller, more strategic decisions, their impacts will be incremental.
This is very important, because while we all like to believe that we make all the right choices and that the system will perform as promised, sometimes we find this not to be the case.
By following this decision-making approach, you will have the flexibility to adjust and adapt without having a significant impact on your overall parking program (including your revenue). By defining your technology roadmap, you also can identify performance accountability in your vendor service agreements in order to ensure longstanding and responsive solutions.
Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are expensive! Think about it – the time it takes for an agency to develop, manage and issue an RFP is considerable. A lot of agencies don’t consider the amount of time and resources required by a vendor to prepare a response.
The process needs to be clearly defined, and you need to know what you are looking for to ensure that your specifications are clear in order for a vendor to respond.
Vendor and product accountability are a significant consideration when soliciting new technology. You need the specification to be defined; however, not so product-specific that it prevents competition or may result in a potential protest. Before you even get to this stage of the process, you need to ensure that you know what you are looking for.
This may seem simple. However, have you actually engaged your team and key stakeholders and solicited their feedback and commentary for your program needs?
If you need new handhelds, for example, are your stakeholders involved or is the vendor telling you what you need?
Have you run an equipment pilot in order for your enforcement officers to provide feedback on the devices? It may not always be easy; in fact, coordinating a pilot can be cumbersome. But dealing with this temporary impediment will
provide long- term dividends once you invest in the actual purchase. 
When would you rather know that your staff has issues with a solution, before or after you issue a purchase order? If you can’t host a pilot, are your stakeholders engaged in the vendor selection process? To be effective in your decision-making process, the actual users should have input. If not, implementing and managing the solution can prove to be cumbersome.
To put it simply, think about this: When you order me a sandwich with mustard, but I don’t like mustard, likely I am not going to consume the sandwich, but if I chose to, I am certainly not going to enjoy it. And I’m just talking about a $5 foot-long, not a six-figure-plus hardware expenditure. Just be sure to engage and obtain feedback when making your technology choices. 
By this point, it may all seem so obvious, but it is the obvious and simple details that are often overlooked when soliciting technology solutions. You need to know how to make the right investment, and to be strategic in your approach and incremental in your spending.
Hold the vendors accountable for their solutions and develop specifications that not only offer responses to your needs, but also provide a window for growth and development.
Define your performance standards. Performance and outputs can be and should be measured.
Parking technology vendors have amazing software platforms with extensive management tools, but you need to look at them and validate performance on a frequent basis.
Find technology partners that are willing to grow with you and that have a technology roadmap following a similar path to your own. And most important, make sure that the upgrades and future enhancements are addressed in your service agreements.
This PIE 2015 session will focus on defining your project objectives and identifying the best solution that can adapt, grow and integrate as your on-street parking program evolves. 
We will discuss the requirements to consider when evaluating technology options and briefly review procurement processes that will support your assessment process. This session’s goal is to help you learn more about making those right investments.
Julie Dixon is CEO of Dixon Resources Unlimited, consulting services specializing in municipal parking. Contact her at julie@dixonresourcesunlimited.com.
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Julie Dixon
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