A Smarter-Parking Solution – Pay as You Go
From ‘Down Under’
The smarter-parking initiative at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia, illustrates that meters are no longer the must-have item for paid parking.
Its pay-as-you-go (PAYG) parking system is the first of its kind to be introduced into Australia, and possibly the world. The system successfully replaced antiquated student permits, and provided an easy, safe, equitable and sustainable alternative.
Curtin’s “smarter-parking” solution is based on motorists being able to pay for parking using a phone or any Internet-enabled device in real-time, and it offers different rates for different user-types and different access options.
The package incorporates integration with legacy staff and student information systems, bay-finding signage and license plate recognition (LPR) technology. Once registered, a user simply starts and stops their parking session using their cellphone, smartphone, tablet or PC.
The introduction of PAYG parking was aimed to make parking more equitable to all motorists who attend the university and to eliminate the common misconception of “I have bought a permit, therefore I must be provided with a parking space,” which led to complaints to the university’s parking office and to the executive managers.
One aim of the PAYG solution was to improve bay availability. The notion was that when motorists pay for the actual time parked, they become conscious of costs and not leave their car parked on campus for the day. This encouraged bay turnover.
The solution combines three formerly disparate technologies
to deliver a contemporary parking solution that is easy to use
1- Input from the student and staff information systems is used to validate the type of user, which is then used to determine tariff.
2- Bay-finding signage system receives data from the PAYG system, counts the number of parking bays available, and displays this information in high-visibility locations
3- Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) system receives data from the PAYG system to automate enforcement. Cameras are mounted on the back of patrol vehicles, and the ANPR system alerts the officer to non-compliant vehicles.
The Business Case
The smartphone solution saved Curtin about $1 million in capital expenditure on meters, as well as the estimated $300,000 per annum in operating costs that would have been incurred with the installation of new and additional meters on campus.
The flexibility to choose the better transport mode on a daily basis encourages use of public transport and other means of commuting to campus. This is a more sustainable model.
An additional financial advantage is that the increased availability of parking stock will result in deferred capital investment in carparking.
The Success Factors
The smarter parking solution replaced a traditional permit system. It was not merged, nor phased-in, because such an approach would have retained the disadvantages of the permit system.
Effective promotion of the system was crucial to its success, including developing promotional materials such as sun visors, videos, pamphlets and web pages on how to use the system.
The results were amazing. Before implementing the change, student satisfaction with parking was the lowest ranked of all university services. With the introduction of the smarter-parking solution, student satisfaction with parking has risen from 32% to 42% — the highest that it has ever been.
The satisfaction also is evidenced by the uptake of 19,000 users in the first year — almost double the number of users with the permit system — and the lack of complaints about fee structures and bay availability.
In addition, 97% of students now pay less for parking. All of the strategic and operational objectives were met. The project solution was 70% cheaper than the original budget for a project that provided an old-fashioned outcome using meters.
Delivering a contemporary parking solution protects and possibly enhances the university’s reputation. The Curtin Student Guild is not threatening to protest about parking. The nearby residents are not complaining because students are parking on their property. The Council is not complaining to Executive or in public forums about the university’s lack of parking management. There is no risk the local paper will run negative press about the university’s parking. And the Vice-Chancellor and Executive Director of Properties are not receiving emails about the “terrible state of parking.”
Importantly, the students are happy, and while no one pretends that this will directly affect student enrollment, the improvements undoubtedly have enhanced the overall student experience ratings. Although not all quantifiable, the benefits cannot be undersold.
Graham Arndt is Director of Operations and Maintenance at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.