From Meter to Mobile: Exploring a Digital Parking Solution for the City of Wardleyville

Problem Statement

Should Wardleyville adopt a digital parking payment/enforcement application, allowing drivers to pay for street parking via phone?

Stakeholders and Value Mapping

Key stakeholders for a potential parking enforcement mobile application include:

  • Application users: Automobile drivers or passengers who reside in, commute to, or visit Wardleyville. Are expected to adhere to local parking regulations, but may require behavioral or enforcement measures to increase compliance. Interested in a more convenient parking and payment experience. Benefit from lower rates of parking violations.
  • Parking enforcement officers (PEOs): Incentivized to issue parking citations, to reduce congestion and increase quality of life. Motivated to increase efficiency of enforcement operations. Can increase city revenue through encouraging compliance or issuing citations.
  • City management (Mayor’s office, CFO): Motivated to improving constituents’ lives through policy interventions, through the mechanism of elections. Held accountable for ensuring City finances remain within budget. Able to affect municipal legislation and communicate with large swathes of constituents.
  • City technology department (CTO/CDO): Has capacity to issue and evaluate technology-related RFPs, manage internal products, and conduct data analysis. Motivated to advance the City’s digital strategy through adopting modern technologies, ultimately progressing towards Government as a Platform (GaaP) systems.

Thorough user research should be conducted upfront to determine user needs and shape application specifications. A starting point for mapping stakeholder value for application users is in the chart below.

Application Features

Based on the user needs defined above, the user journey framework below recommends must-have and bonus features for the parking enforcement application. Must-have features reflect functions that are absolutely necessary to deliver on the application’s value proposition. This list is a starting point, and should be re-evaluated as user testing is conducted, and as vendors provide their own ideas.

Criteria and Assessment

The following criteria can be used to evaluated whether the application should be adopted in Wardleyville. A preliminary assessment for each criterion is provided along a strong/moderate/weak scale, assuming an application with the “must-have” features listed above. Further opportunities for validating the assessment are also considered once more information is available. These criteria will be used as a framework in subsequent sections on vendor selection and KPIs.

Financial impact

  • Definition: Net annual financial impact for the City of Wardleyville.
  • Assessment: Moderate, and highly dependent on vendor selection. In addition to the costs of the application and vendor services, implementation will require investments in employee and citizen training, updated street signage, and potentially additional product management or data analytics FTEs (depending on our current capacity). On the other hand, a digital parking enforcement application can increase city revenues. Similar applications have increased parking revenue by approximately 20%, because more convenient payment options lead to higher rates of compliance. Furthermore, transaction data can be used to inform parking enforcement operations, allowing PEOs to focus their efforts on areas with higher violation densities, thereby increasing citations and subsequent revenues.
  • Validation: Vendor-specific cost and revenue projections are needed to precisely determine the financial implications of a solution. In parallel, City budget data is needed to set the baseline. If the budget cannot accommodate a basic solution, the City finance team should explore grant or private partnership funding options.

Operational impact

  • Definition: Degree of parking enforcement efficiency gains achieved from the application.
  • Assessment: Strong. The application can provide transaction data to inform performance management and resource allocation. It also expedites processing of parking payments, as fewer coins will need to be collected, counted, and banked. One operational concern is the additional burden on PEOs, who must now scan car license plates in addition to checking parking meters, to validate whether the driver paid for parking via mobile. However, during a ridealong the author conducted with City of Boston PEOs in 2017, this disruption was found to be minimal when a similar technology was introduced.
  • Validation: Operational impact can be tracked through relevant KPIs (recommended below) post-implementation.

User experience

  • Definition: Degree of improvement to citizens’ street parking experience. May be measured by change in average time per parking transaction, change in dollars spent on street parking, or qualitative user satisfaction (e.g. through surveys).
  • Assessment: Strong. The features laid out in the previous section address many user pain points, with the potential to add value and “delight” depending on the product. In the base model, the mobile parking application reduces the amount of time spent per transaction by eliminating the need to return to the meter, accumulate quarters, etc. It also reduces money wasted on unused parking time. Although it is likely that a more efficient parking enforcement system will lead to a higher initial volume of citations, this efficiency ultimately benefits Wardleyville residents by reducing parking violations that create congestion and reduce quality of living.
  • Validation: User feedback should be gathered in the testing and scaling phases to precisely understand impact on the user experience, and discover opportunities for continuous improvement.

Implementation feasibility

  • Definition: Level of resources and effort needed to integrate the application with current processes and systems.
  • Assessment: Weak. This is likely to be a high-effort implementation (recommended steps listed below), especially given that supporting systems (e.g. payments collection, parking regulation maps, citation case tracking) will need to be digitized to be compatible with the application.
  • Validation: Vendor proposals should include a capability needs assessment for the City, to clarify the gap between current and needed systems / processes.

Security

  • Definition: Likelihood of a security breach, involving the accessing of government systems and / or procurement of personal information by outside adversaries.
  • Assessment: Strong but highly vendor-dependent. To be effective, this application only needs to collect billing information, license plates, and transaction data (e.g. location and time of payments). Adversaries are only likely to target billing information, though basic security measures (e.g. encryption, using external verification services) should be able to protect this data.
  • Validation: Vendor security standards should be checked against city, state, and national security requirements. In addition, a threat assessment would provide a more comprehensive view of the likelihood of an attack.

Equity

  • Definition: Extent to which the solution meets the parking-related needs of all constituents.
  • Assessment: Moderate. Adequate inclusivity features, including accessibility features, language translations, and non-internet-based payment options (phone call or SMS), will allow the broadest possible range of constituents to use this service. However, there is the risk of asymmetric impacts. For example, data-enabled performance management might incentivized disproportionate parking enforcement in particular neighborhoods.
  • Validation: As recommended in the KPIs below, outcomes can be measured by neighborhood and demographic to check for asymmetric impacts on particular groups. Engaging community organizations will also be critical to get feedback on progress towards equity.

GaaP integration

  • Definition: Extent to which this solution could lead to Government as a Platform outcomes.
  • Assessment: Moderate. Implementing this application can build digital capabilities within the city, including agile implementation, user-centric design and testing, and data analytics. However, the application is extremely tailored for a particular purpose, and does not inherently provide a structure for platform-based systems. It may be able to plug into future platforms — e.g. connecting parking user profiles to citizen information.
  • Validation: The CTO should provide their digital strategy framework, allowing us to evaluate how this application could fit into the City’s digital roadmap.

Recommendation

This analysis demonstrates that a mobile parking enforcement application is advisable for Wardleyville. The application promises strong or moderate outcomes along all criteria except implementation feasibility, but implementation efforts are an upfront cost that does not outweigh the long-term benefits of this solution.

An important caveat is that in the short term, this application should supplement, and not replace, analog parking meters. This measure is critical to ensure equity for residents and visitors who do not possess smartphones, bank accounts, or technological know-how.

Implementation

Vendor selection

When issuing an RFP, the procurement team should ensure that proposals contain the following components, such that they can be adequately assessed against relevant criteria:

  • Proposed contract terms, including term length, exit clause provisions etc.
  • Detailed cost estimate and revenue projection
  • Detailed application specifications, with clarity on where customization is possible
  • List and specifications for added services beyond the app (e.g. implementation assistance, customer service)
  • Capability needs assessment
  • Case studies / testimonials from similar rollouts
  • Company privacy and security policy

Vendors should be assessed against the feature list above. Any viable proposal should contain all “must have” features, with added features providing bonuses. Proposed features not on the above list should be assessed against the criteria framework, to ensure that they are value-adding and worth the incremental cost.

In addition, vendors should be holistically assessed against the criteria framework. The procurement team should consider the following questions:

  • Financial impact: Is the application within the City’s budget? If not, does the projected revenue recoup the excess costs? What is the term length of the proposed contract, and how flexibly can the vendor be changed if needed?
  • Operational impact: Does the vendor provide any data analytic support or tools? Has the vendor previously worked with our parking enforcement device and software provider?
  • User experience: What has user feedback been on the vendor’s previous rollouts? How robust is the customer support mechanism?
  • Implementation feasibility: To what extent does the vendor provide hands-on implementation assistance and maintenance support (e.g. city employee training)? Is there a designated customer manager? Are there any hidden costs of implementation to consider? Is the vendor amenable to an exit clause, if the pilot leads to insurmountable failures?
  • Security: What is the vendor’s track record with security — have there been past breaches? How does the vendor’s privacy and security policy compare to recommended best practices?
  • Equity: To what extent can the application be offered in different languages? Are there user accessibility features (e.g. text-to-speech or large font options)? How diverse and inclusive are the vendor’s workplace practices? Assuming qualifications are in place, is there an opportunity to support a minority/woman/veteran-owned business?
  • GaaP integration: To what extent can the application integrate with other systems and softwares (e.g. with an API)? Does the vendor offer other digital government products?

Implementation Roadmap

Below is a high-level RACI chart indicating the major steps for implementation, including opportunities for continuous improvement.

KPIs

Throughout implementation, the product manager and data teams should track the following KPIs where data is available, and assess potential for improvement:

GaaP integration is omitted from this framework given the long-term nature of the GaaP mission.

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