A parking system retrofit in Salt Lake City has improved system reliability and enhanced customer convenience.

Words | Nicole Ybarra, IPS Group, USA

Salt Lake City, Utah is a cosmopolitan U.S. city with a vibrant and thriving downtown business district, where fine dining, shops and the arts draw residents into the city, placing a premium on its limited on-street parking resources.

To help manage this demand, Salt Lake City purchased 300 Siemens pay stations in 2012 which allowed motorists to pay by credit card for their parking fares. It was envisioned that the meters would improve customer convenience as a result of enhanced payment options, but early on the meters were plagued with system reliability issues, according to the City. Poor connectivity at the machines meant that credit card processing times were lengthy, unavailable and often ended in incomplete transactions. Customers were often found to be in violation due to payment errors at the machines, leading to customer complaints and enforcement problems. Coupled with a complex user interface, numerous maintenance issues and a lack of customer support, the system was unpopular both with the public and the City, and prompted a strategic reevaluation of the City’s parking assets.

Innovative Solution Extends Equipment Life Despite their issues, the existing units were only three years old and the cabinets were in good condition. As such, the City was reluctant to purchase entirely new machines but there were limited options available on the market. The City turned to technology vendor IPS Group, Inc. for an innovative solution to its faulty system. The City conducted field visits, observed the assembly of the units at IPS headquarters in San Diego and collected data

on the volume of transactions handled by IPS and the average uptime of its units which aided in the decision making process. Subsequently the City purchased 300 IPS Revolution Upgrade Kits.

The Revolution Upgrade Kit retrofits the City’s existing Siemens cabinet, and consists of a patented new machine door which houses a compact main operating board, single-sided thermal printer, coin acceptor and card reader. Certain models of the kits feature LED lights that illuminate the display screen and can also be used to provide additional lighting for maintenance personnel.

Once upgraded, the multi-space meters feature a large, backlit graphical display with the ability to show graphics and text in any language. What’s more, the meters utilize the latest cellular technology optimised for the parking application, which decreases processing times from minutes to mere seconds which was especially important to Salt Lake City. Customers benefit from the IntelliTouch™ feature which provides additional flexibility when completing a transaction. Users may begin the payment sequence in the manner most intuitive to them after which the pay station will guide them through the transaction. The upgrade kits allowed the City to maximise the life of their existing infrastructure and provide state-of-the-art technology at a fraction of the cost of a new machine, saving the City more than USD$1 million.

Reshaping Parking’s Perception

The upgraded units have been well received by the public.

“Customer complaints are down 65%,” stated Robin Hutcheson, Director, Transportation Division, Community and Economic Development, Salt Lake City Corporation. Because the IPS meter utilizes the cellular network for all credit card processing and data transmissions (such as rate configurations, sensor info, fault notifications, etc.), all transactions are online in real time. This ensures faster credit card processing time and greater system reliability. Due to the ease of use of the system and an average system uptime in excess of 99.6%, the City has also reported an increase in the volume and value of transactions as well as a significant reduction in meter faults. The entire meter park is networked to a web-based Data Management System (DMS) which allows the City to wirelessly manage its assets from any web-enabled device. The DMS provides real-time data on revenue, system uptime, occupancy and will notify the City in the event of a meter fault, thereby reducing downtime and minimising customer inconvenience.

Facing increasing pressure from the public for a more reliable system, the partnership between Salt Lake City and IPS Group resulted in an enhanced user experience, improved uptime, increased meter transactions and a dramatic decrease in maintenance issues following the introduction of the upgrade kits, while allowing the City to extend the life of its existing cabinets and maximise its budget. “IPS provided excellent customer service throughout the meter retrofit process by adapting to our unique urban conditions and providing daily onsite support.  Their attentiveness to Salt Lake City smoothed a difficult transition time,” said Hutcheson.