In a recent Keene Sentinel article, the “city” is doing a trial run of the Park Mobile System. This move is good news for the following reasons:
First, adoption of this technology will likely reduce the 29,170 (FY13 Goal, pg 212) tickets issued by parking enforcers, their primary task, thus making enforcement more obsolete. If people use this new system, their chance of receiving a parking ticket will be greatly reduced because they can receive alerts reminding them when their meters are about to expire. Additionally, they may be able to extend their time remotely through the Park Mobile App adding more time to their session if they need it. Furthermore, the number of tickets issued because people who did not have change or enough change is also likely to go down since there will be an additional way of paying for the meters.
Second, Park Mobile claims operational costs will drop since “most Parking Operators see reduced operating expenses associated with maintenance (such as coin collection, service, maintenance, vandalism, and shrinkage).” If the city adopts this system, there will be less need for paying an enforcer to deal with the various duties of the meters, their secondary tasks, collecting coins, fixing jams, changing out batteries, etc. If everyone used this system, the role of paying someone to collect the coinage would be eliminated completely. The number of employees tasked with parking enforcement could be reduced (or even their hours) since there will be less work both on the administration side of parking with less tickets being issued and the enforcement side with less maintenance being done. Perhaps the city could even go down to one enforcer doing both the administration and enforcement of parking.
Third, enforcers will be a little less efficient getting around and checking meters since if they do spot an expired meter, they will have the additional step of checking to see if the parker used Park Mobile before issuing a ticket. This small delay may reduce the efficiency of enforcement.
This new system does have its flaws however. The worst thing about this new system is definitely the transaction fee of 30 to 50 cents that comes from using the service. A good portion of this fee is probably the result of credit card processing fees. If someone wants to park for an hour downtown for $0.50, they may view the additional $0.30 fee as excessive and not use the service.
What impact will this technology have on Robin Hood of Keene? If people do use this service, it will likely make the actions by Robin Hooders less needed. However, it still will help meet Robin Hood’s mission of reducing the number of tickets issued. Even if a Robin Hooder adds money to a meter of a vehicle that used this service, the “just in case” scenario, the resulting additional funding to the “city will still be less than a ticket. If a meter is expired and a Robin Hooder fills it with $0.25 of change and the person had used Park Mobile and bought $1.25 of parking, the total net collection of $1.50 will still be significantly less than the $5 ticket that may have been issued. Combined with the current Robin Hood efforts, if people use this technology, hopefully the number of tickets issued will drop significantly. Therefore, I don’t see this technology having a huge negative impact on the current Robin Hood activism and believe there will be a continued need for Robin Hooders to help reduce the more than 29,000 tickets issued in Keene.
Ultimately, I would like to see solutions that try to solve the parking situation in the downtown instead of managing it with parking enforcement, but adopting new technology to make the enforcement of parking less relevant is definitely an improvement. Hopefully this new technology will reduce the need for enforcement, lead to less parking enforcers, and eventually show that parking could be done in the downtown without issuing tickets.