Parking Authority Blog

Measuring for Success

June 22, 2018

 “What gets measured gets done,” a quote often attributed to management expert Peter Drucker, is an adage the Parking Authority firmly believes and follows.  We set high standards for ourselves and the programs we manage for the City, and we then measure our work against those metrics.

It’s Not All About Money

Unfortunately, some think our only metric is making money. Although we do collect a lot of revenue on behalf of the City, and that revenue has grown significantly over time, for most of our programs, our goals are not financial in nature. Our goals correspond with our mission, which is to find, or create, and implement parking solutions for Baltimore City. Our mission is not to simply and blindly earn the City of Baltimore as much money as possible.

Our Metrics Match Program Goals

The metric we track for each division corresponds with the goal of that program and is not simply the result or output that is easiest to measure. In some cases, we had to develop a tool to be able to measure what mattered most. In others, we were already tracking what was critical for a program’s success.

Which Metrics Do We Use?

We use the following metrics to measure our success. We evaluate ourselves monthly and report our findings to the PABC Board of Directors. It’s a helpful tool to maintain excellence, especially as we set our sights higher, adding new technology to accomplish our mission.

 

Department, Division or Section

Metric

Goal

Off-Street Parking

Net Operating Income (Revenues minus operating expenses)

1.5% above previous fiscal year-to-date

Residential Permit Parking

Customer Satisfaction

Average Satisfaction Rate of 1.0 or higher (0=Not Satisfied, 1=Satisfied, 2=Extremely Satisfied)

 

Parking Meters

Percent of Demand-Based Parking Meter Rate blocks that are within target occupancy range (75-85% occupancy)

75%

Parking Meters

Parking meter uptime (the percent of time meters are working properly)

98%

Residential Reserved Disabled Parking

Percent of completed applications reviewed and responded to within 30 days

95%

Valet Regulations

Number of complaints about valet operators/operations

10 or fewer per month

Planning

Percent of tasks and projects closed/completed on time

90%

Administration

Team turnover rate

10% or less

Administration

Overtime hours as a percent of total hours worked

0.5% or less

Administration

Percent of invoices paid within 30 days of receipt

98%

Administration

Operating at or below budget

Yes

 

Why each metric matters:

Off-Street Parking

Metric - Net Operating Income 

Garages and Lots Must Maximize Financial Return

Baltimore City and its residents have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the development of parking garages and lots.  It is important that residents realize the fullest possible financial return on those investments

Residential Permit Parking (RPP)

Metric - Customer Satisfaction

We Want Satisfied Customers

PABC distributes over 30,000 residential parking permits annually.  But, we do not enforce RPP restrictions– that is done by the Baltimore City Department of Transportation.  So, the most important metric for the RPP program is the satisfaction of RPP residents in our distribution of those permits (Are we professional, courteous, and efficient?).

Parking Meters

Metric - Percent of Demand-Based Parking Meter Rate Blocks within the target occupancy range 

Parking Meters Create Available Parking

The purpose of parking meters is to create availability of parking in commercial areas that need it.  The target occupancy range is 75-85% (on average, there should be one or two spaces available on each block). 

We Want One or Two Available Parking Spaces Per Block

We introduced Demand-Based Parking Meter Rate Setting Downtown in the summer of 2017.  Only 16% of the blocks Downtown were in the target occupancy range before we started.  On blocks where the occupancy is too low (i.e. where too few cars are parked), we lower the rate by 25¢ to encourage more people to park there.  On blocks where the occupancy is too high (i.e. where too few spaces are regularly available), we increase the rate by 25¢ to encourage people to park where it is less expensive (either on a nearby block with a cheaper rate, or in an off-street parking garage or lot). 

Adjustments Are Making a Difference

So far, we have adjusted Downtown parking meter rates twice (we collect data and make adjustments every six months), and the percent of blocks with occupancy in the target range has risen to 21%.  Our goal is for 75% of the blocks to be within the target occupancy range, so we still have work to do.

Metric - Parking Meter Uptime 

Meters Need to Be Working

The parking meters need to be operating in order to do their job (of creating available parking spaces) and to not frustrate parkers.  Our goal is for parking meters to be operating and in good working condition throughout the entire City nearly 100% of the time (98% is the goal).

Residential Reserved Disabled Parking

Metric - Percent of Completed Applications reviewed and responded to within 30 days 

Stringent Qualifications Exist for the Service

The eligibility requirements for this service are set in City Code, are stringent, and are rather lengthy.  An applicant must prove they have a mobility-restricting disability, that they have no accessible off-street parking at their residence, and that there are no accessible transit options available near their home.  It takes significant time and effort by PABC team members to review each application, and we receive over 150 new applications annually for this service. 

Applications Must Be Processed Quickly

Before PABC took over the administration of this service, applicants would often have to wait for a year or more before receiving a response.  We recognized that, if a resident qualifies for this service, they need the accommodation as soon as reasonably possible.  That is why we established 30 days as our goal for reviewing completed applications for the service and, except for periods when we receive an inordinate number of applications, we have met and expect to continue to meet that goal.

Valet Regulations

Metric - Number of complaints about valet operators/operations 

Before Regulation, Our Phone Rang Off the Hook

Before regulation of valet services was set in City Code, the City had no control over valet operators.  Because there were no controls, valet operators did as they pleased, and we received hundreds of complaints a year about valet operations.  Valets parked cars in front of residences and other businesses, and not in off-street garages or lots.  When valet operators damaged customers’ vehicles, we found that they were uninsured or under-insured and the parkers had little recourse to get their vehicles repaired.  Valet operations were insufficiently staffed, causing cars to clog the streets in front of those venues, backing up traffic, and causing significant safety concerns.

After Regulation, Complaints Dropped Dramatically

 With regulation of valet, those abuses have been controlled.  And our best measure of the success of the program is the number of complaints about valet operators and operations, which have dropped dramatically and have remained extremely low.

Planning

Metric - Percent of tasks and projects closed/completed on time 

Planning Involves Many Varied Tasks

PABC’s Planning Division has tasks that vary in complexity - from as simple as marking in new spots for parking meters, to more complicated tasks such as investigating requests for truck loading zones and passenger loading zones, to very complex projects like conducting parking studies for entire neighborhoods. 

Each Task Must Be Completed Within Established Timeframe

We have established reasonable timeframes for the completion of these tasks and projects.  The measure for Planning is the percentage of those tasks and projects that are completed within those timeframes.

Administration

Metric - Team turnover rate 

We Want to Retain Good Team Members

To accomplish our mission, we need to attract and retain good, highly qualified team members.  High staff turnover rates lead to lost time and resources in attracting, hiring, and training new team members to get the job done.  If our turnover rate is too high, we must look at what we are doing - compensation, benefits, work environment, workload, etc. – and ask ourselves why an excessive number of team members are leaving and take action to counter-act the problem.  

Turnover Rate Must Be Low

Recognizing that there will always be some team members who retire, pursue other careers outside parking, or be offered advancement opportunities elsewhere that are not available at PABC at the time, our turnover goal is 10% or less annually.

Metric - Overtime hours as a percent of total hours worked

Overtime Must Be Low

PABC team members work hard.  But, we don’t want team members to regularly work beyond 40 hours per week.  We don’t want team members to “burn out” and leave the team due to that stress.  If there is regularly more work to do than can be done by team members working regular hours, that’s an indication to us that we need to hire more team members.  Typically, overtime pay is not an efficient use of financial resources.  So, we have established an aggressively low goal for overtime hours as a percent of total hours worked by the team.

Metric - Percent of invoices paid within 30 days of receipt

Vendors Must Be Paid Quickly

Promptly paying firms that supply you with goods and services is the right thing to do (just like you expect to get your paycheck on time), but paying vendors promptly also benefits the City in other ways.  The best vendors will continue to work with you if they are paid within a reasonable period.  Also, you tend to get better pricing on goods and services if you pay for them quickly.

Metric - Operating at or below budget 

We Must Be Good Stewards of Taxpayer Dollars

It’s important to operate within the financial resources provided.  We need to be good stewards of the funds provided to us for the programs we administer.  PABC is proud of the fact that we have operated within budget for 13 straight years.


"Virtual" Parking Permits May Soon Be a Reality

March 23, 2018

We know there are two things residents who live in Residential Permit Parking (RPP) areas want from the program: 1. They want to be able to park in the neighborhood (and as close to their house as possible), and 2. They don’t want getting their parking permits to be difficult.

Better Enforcement

We’ve found a way to make it easier for Parking Enforcement to enforce RPP restrictions. So, enforcement can happen more efficiently and more often. Fewer non-neighbors parking = more parking spaces for residents.

Easier Process

We’ve also found a way to make getting permits easier.

If you live in one of Baltimore’s RPP areas, you must get a new permit once a year. We know it can be a hassle. You must gather the required documents, go to the community pickup or Parking Authority, and wait for a customer service representative. You present your documents for inspection, pay for your permits, return home, scrape the old parking decal off your windshield (not easy!) and slap on the new one.

What if you didn’t have to go anywhere? What if you could do it all online? It’s possible and we’re trying to make it happen.

Instead of a physical permit that adheres to your windshield, your car’s license plate can serve as the parking credential. It’s called “virtual permitting.”

License Plate Readers Mounted on Vehicles Verify "Permits"

Instead of Parking Enforcement Agents walking down the sidewalk checking windshields for permits, they would drive a van outfitted with a license plate reader and gather license plate numbers. If you’ve renewed your permit online (after scanning and submitting your documents electronically), your license plate number will register as valid. If a car’s license plate number does not have a “virtual permit,” the parking enforcement agent can issue a ticket or come back again after the posted duration limit and issue a ticket.

Visitor Permits Can be Virtual 

What about visitor’s permits? They can be virtual too. Before your visitor arrives, you would go online or call on the phone, enter their license plate number and when they will be parking in your RPP area. When the parking enforcement agents come by, your visitor’s car will register as valid.

More Available Parking Spaces Due to More Efficient Enforcement 

It will be easier for you because you won’t have to spend so much time getting your permits, but it will also be easier to find a parking space in your neighborhood, which is the reason for RPP in the first place. Why? Because enforcing RPP restrictions will also be easier. Parking enforcement agents will cover more ground more efficiently. So, fewer people will get away with parking in your neighborhood for too long without a permit, leaving more spaces for you! 

Vehicle License Plate Reader


The Science of Operating Parking Garages

January 17, 2018

The City of Baltimore and its residents own 17 parking garages.  The City has borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars to construct the garages, which cost between $20,000 and $35,000 per parking space to build.  The City pays the operating expenses of the garages, totaling about $13 million per year.  The City also pays millions of dollars per year for capital repairs and replacement of systems in City-owned garages (concrete repairs; elevators; parking access and revenue control systems; lighting; plumbing).  As you can see, the City has made and continues to make, huge investments in these parking assets.

The Parking Authority manages those garages on behalf of the City.  We believe that the City and its residents should expect the highest possible financial return on investment on these assets they have, and continue to, vest so much in.  And we believe it should be those who use the garages who, over time, pay for the garages’ construction, operation, and ongoing maintenance because, if they don’t, it is the residents and businesses of Baltimore City themselves who must “subsidize” these costs through increased taxes.

We take our job of managing these parking garages very seriously, and we use science to help us do it: 

  • We have developed formulas for each garage that help us determine the mix of transient parkers (those who park for only a few hours or for a day) and monthly contract parkers that will maximize garage revenues. 
  • We also use data collected on parking rates at nearby garages and data on our garages’ occupancy to determine rate elasticity - whether we can adjust parking rates at our garages to push revenues higher. 
  • We use data on the percentage of monthly contract parkers who actually park in our garages and the number of transient customers in our garages each day to develop formulas that let us know if we can “oversell” monthly contracts at a particular garage (i.e. sell more monthly contracts for a particular garage than we have spaces in that garage).

Based on our recommendations, the City has installed parking access and revenue control systems at its garages which allow us to strictly and efficiently control the collection of parking revenues.  Those systems also provide us, at our fingertips, with the data we need to make those calculations above and maximize the City’s return on investments in their parking garages.

Expenses of building and maintaining parking garages

PABC Maximizes the City's Return on Investment

Car Sharing Reduces Parking Demand in Baltimore

January 31, 2017

Zipcar Vehicle

You’ve probably seen people driving around Baltimore in vehicles with a big green “Z” on the side over the past several years. And, you may have noticed some bright green signs popping up on street corners or in parking lots or garages. You may have wondered where these cars came from and why are they here?

What Is It?

In 2010, the Parking Authority of Baltimore City contracted with Zipcar to bring car sharing to Baltimore City. Car sharing is a service that provides access to vehicles to members for short-term trips without the burden of full-time car ownership. This makes it easier for an individual to give up a car or for a family to reduce the number of cars they own. They can walk, take transit or ride bicycles most of the time and reserve a car sharing vehicle for the occasional times they must drive.

Why Do We Support Car Sharing?

Residents have given up more than 3,000 cars in Baltimore City because of our work with Zipcar. That’s good for parking.  It means fewer cars competing for a very limited number of on-street spaces and fewer parking spaces that need to be built. The price to build a new parking garage to accommodate the 3,000 cars that were given up by Zipcar members would have cost taxpayers $75 Million. It’s called a parking demand management strategy and it’s working.

Do People Use Car Sharing?

The car sharing program started seven years ago with only a couple of hundred members and 17 Zipcar vehicles. Today, there are thousands of Baltimore Zipcar members sharing 180 vehicles parked at 75 different locations.

What’s Planned for the Future?

We will continue to support car sharing in the future. Our contract with Zipcar expires in 2017, but we plan on issuing a Request for Proposals to allow car sharing to continue in Baltimore. We also are working on creating a partnership with another type of car sharing organization that allows drivers to pick up a vehicle in one location and drop it off at another. It’s called point to point car sharing. It gives one more option to people who rely on alternative forms of transportation and provide support to those who have given up a car. We plan on making it possible for point to point car sharing to operate in Baltimore within the next year.


November 1, 2016

 

Why We Should All Love Parking Meters!

Parking Meters Help Solve Parking Problems by Creating Turnover

Parking meters!  Ugh. Who would like parking meters? Why do we even have the darn things?

Well… they exist to solve a problem, not to drive you crazy.  As a matter of fact, they were invented to solve that problem.  

In the mid-1930’s, downtown workers in Oklahoma City parked in the most convenient parking spaces for them – on-street parking spaces in the heart of downtown, in front of the buildings where they worked.  But, those buildings also housed restaurants and shops.  This wasn’t a problem for those workers, but it was a big problem for those restaurants and shops.  Because all of the spaces in closest proximity to their establishments were occupied all day by downtown workers, their customers had to park in lots or on-street at the edges of town, blocks away.  Their customers didn’t like that, and they began to lose business.  

In 1935, Oklahoma City leaders turned to a couple of professors at Oklahoma State University to help solve the problem.  Their solution was the parking meter!  Parking meters were installed at on-street parking spaces throughout downtown Oklahoma City, charging a nickel per hour to park.  Downtown workers, unwilling to pay forty to fifty cents to park all day, started parking in the lots on the edges of downtown where parking was cheaper or free.  Patrons of downtown shops and restaurants then had convenient on-street places to park, and they didn’t mind paying five or ten cents for that privilege.

Why parkers should love parking meters

If you are coming to Baltimore to do some shopping, to eat at a restaurant, or to visit an attraction for a few hours, don’t you want to park at the spaces that are most convenient and closest to your destination?  If you have to park too far away, then you’re probably not going to patronize that shop, restaurant, or attraction.  Just like in Oklahoma City 80 years ago, parking meters help to create that availability of convenient on-street parking spaces for short-term parkers.

Why businesses should love parking meters

Who are the most important people to a business?  A business’ customers, of course!  Without customers, and the revenue they bring to businesses, businesses simply could not survive.  If their customers are less likely to patronize a business if they have to park further away, any business should love a tool that helps to make the closest parking spaces available to their customers.  Parking meters do just that!

Why everyone in cities should love parking meters

There is never an unlimited supply of parking anywhere, especially in urban areas.  So, in order to make the most efficient use of the limited supply of parking, you need to manage it well and “spread” the demand for parking.  

Everyone would love to park in that one space that is closest to their destination.  However, obviously, not everyone can.  While short-term parkers – shoppers, diners, or people visiting a museum or other attraction – are often unwilling to park more than a few blocks from their destination, longer-term parkers – workers in the area or people who plan to spend the entire day there – are often willing to walk a few more blocks to and from their destination, especially if the cost to park all day is less at those other parking options.  If parking meter rates are correct, they should help with that equation.  Parking meter rates should be set so that, relative to off-street parking options, they are a bargain for parking stays of 4 hours or less, but are more expensive than off-street parking for stays of 5 hours or more.  When parking meter rates are, in that way, correct, longer-term parkers will park off-street, thereby freeing close and convenient on-street parking spaces for shorter-term parkers.  It is through that smart use of parking meters that a city’s total parking resources (on-street; off-street; public; and private) are most fully realized, and that’s good for everyone. 

OK, so you still may not LIKE to pay the parking meter (really, who does?), but now you can love that the parking meter is there because you know it helped you find the parking space in the first place. 

 
Pete Little, Executive Director, PABC