EasyPark Leverages Smarking Data to Drive Parking Management and Policy
Updated: Dec 16, 2019
EasyPark is a parking operations organization that manages off-street parking facilities in British Columbia, Canada. EasyPark manages over 128 lots and garages across 60 client accounts, serving parkers in a variety of communities throughout the region. Unlike many parking companies in North America, EasyPark is extremely consumer oriented, and demonstrates their commitment by supporting seven different mobile payment systems, and multiple onsite payment systems at most locations.
Given the complexity of these systems, and to optimize parking operations around the dynamic market and the various technology elements, EasyPark adopted a data-driven approach, fueled by Smarking, to assist with running daily operations and strategic decisions. EasyPark engaged Smarking in 2016 in an effort to push forward business intelligence in their parking management. The two organizations work together to eliminate manual report consolidation, reduce labor cost, and allow EasyPark to proactively manage their parking inventory.
We wanted to change the culture of parking management and use data to drive “our businesses. Smarking made it possible.
- Nigel Bullers, Chief Executive Officer
Proactive Enforcement Planning
EasyPark diligently manages parking enforcement to reduce parking offenders and increase the efficiency of their parking inventory. EasyPark has an enforcement supervisory team that currently works with two external enforcement contractors for parking enforcement. The enforcement contractors followed a fixed enforcement route to track and ticket parking violators. Based on their experience, high-occupancy locations tend to have higher violations than lower occupancy locations.
However, before EasyPark partnered with Smarking they didn’t have accurate occupancy data to help them optimize enforcement routing and better target high-violation locations. To further complicate the situation, incidents such as exceptional weather conditions often shift parking demand significantly, resulting in unusually high or low occupancy, delayed or advanced peak occupancy times, or the migration of parkers between adjacent locations.
When this happens, a fixed enforcement plan can easily miss the high occupancy locations, resulting in wasted effort and lost revenue. Finally, without real-time data sharing between the field staff and the supervisory team, EasyPark found it difficult to proactively participate in enforcement planning and to supervise the ground staff’s activities. The EasyPark team ended up spending hours every week trying to determine why some locations had no citation on days where they expected them, and were incredibly frustrated about the difficulty to find clear answers.
Data-Driven Enforcement Routes
EasyPark partnered with Smarking to improve enforcement routing by effectively tracking transient parker behaviors across their locations. By arranging enforcement routes based on historical occupancy levels at each location at each hour of the day, EasyPark achieved higher citation revenue with the same amount of enforcement resources. EasyPark also reduced the cost of cars driving randomly site to site. Enforcement vehicles now go where there are cars, and do not visit empty lots. In addition to planning routing based on historical average occupancy, EasyPark monitors real-time occupancy to help redirect enforcement staff in response to unusual occupancy occurrences. For example, a sudden cold wave on a Saturday morning may cause people to visit downtown one hour later than usual; by the time parking violations start to appear, the enforcement staff would normally have left already if they were to follow a fixed route plan.
However, with real-time occupancy information through Smarking, the staff can now postpone their enforcement trip or circle back one hour later, preventing major revenue loss. Last but not least, communication between EasyPark’s internal and external enforcement teams has also become easier. When a question is raised, the teams can now simply look up the hourly occupancy numbers on their Smarking dashboard. What used to take hours of discussion and investigation now only needs a few minutes and decisions are made with higher transparency, and one consistent data interface.
Data Enables Price Experiments and Push for a Mobile Payment
To improve customer experiences and cut operational costs, EasyPark introduced mobile payment options to all their locations. They found it challenging however to estimate the likelihood their parkers were willing to adopt a new payment method. They could survey the parkers, but given the number of locations they manage and the diversity of preferences among parkers, a survey would be expensive and time-consuming.
The experiment was a big success. Now we know where we can increase revenue, where we can cut costs, and what could happen if we change rates or switch equipment. This will help us make decisions down the road, due to Smarking.
- Gary Khor, Vice President of Information Technology
Testing Mobile Payment and Rate Adjustments
With Smarking, EasyPark successfully designed and conducted an experiment to examine parkers’ acceptance of mobile payment. Initially, mobile payment offered a 10% discount off the meter rate. For this experiment, EasyPark reduced the mobile app rate by 10% creating a larger rate gap between the two channels. Using Smarking’s transaction and revenue data to track the changes in payment behaviors, EasyPark discovered that shortly after the rate change, most locations saw increased mobile payment uses and decreased parking meter uses. Following this experiment, EasyPark selectively removed a few meters with low usage and reduced their operational costs.
More importantly, EasyPark successfully unveiled parkers’ preferences by triggering and tracking their behavior changes. Their findings were more concrete than results from a field survey that asks hypothetical questions such as “How likely are you to switch to mobile payment if the meter rate goes up by $0.25?”. Moreover, at locations where parkers were insensitive to the rate gap, the experiment led to revenue growth. Last but not least, Smarking automated EasyPark’s data collecting, tracking, and calculating process; and provided them with a dashboard that contains easily-digestible data to help Gary and his team monitor their experiment and evaluate the results.
In addition to adjusting rates, EasyPark also leveraged Smarking to improve mobile payment marketing strategies. EasyPark sends out marketing “Street Teams” to promote mobile payment apps at different times of the year. “In the past we would send teams out when we thought a parking lot would be busy”, says Heather Hogarth, Director of operations. “With Smarking, we can now clearly define when to send a marketing team, and to which lot - we can say go to this lot at 8:45 and leave by 10 am. Smarking gives us that kind of precise data on customer behavior.”
Leveraging Data to Uncover Opportunities
As an organization embedded in community values, EasyPark sees meeting community parking needs as important as gaining revenues, and actively looks for ways to serve more parkers with limited resources. Lot 8 is located in Vancouver’s Gastown neighborhood where parking availability was very limited. Initially the facility only offered monthly parking. When EasyPark started to manage this facility, Gary and his team asked the question “Is there any opportunity to accommodate transient parkers in this neighborhood?”, but soon learned that the monthly passes were sold out. However, when they made a trip out to the facility they discovered that half of the spaces were sitting empty. They didn’t know where to start to sort out these seemingly contradictory viewpoints, and whether there would be any opportunity to provide additional benefits to the community by utilizing the empty spaces.
Sometimes the hardest part is not to get the answer but to know what questions to ask. Smarking gave us the right questions and different views of the facility. That was how we were able to see the new opportunities.
- Gary Khor, Vice President of Information Technology
Understanding Parking Behavior
With Smarking, Gary and his team were able to view historical data for this location and saw a consistent occupancy level of 30-50%. Diving into the details, they learned that about half of the monthly pass holders were residents and the other half employees of businesses in the area. The two groups’ parking schedules barely overlapped, indicating an opportunity for shared-parking. Based on this finding, in December 2017, EasyPark moved residential parking to the lower level of the facility which was initially dedicated to employee parking, and opened up the upper level to transient parkers. During the first quarter of 2018, the 41 transient parking spaces had 3,222 parking transactions, on average 36 per day (Figure 1), and generated a total of $29,000 in revenue (Figure 2).
Real-time Data Enabled Immediate Action-taking
In complex urban environments, a number of factors can interrupt parking operations, causing customer frustration and revenue loss. When this happens, it can take hours or even days before a parking operations team can become aware of a situation and take action.
Leveraging Smarking, EasyPark has transformed its parking operations to enable data-driven and real-time actions and planning. In EasyPark’s office, there are six monitors in the operation center and four TVs in the customer center that livestream real-time occupancy, duration, and revenue data across nearly 50 locations. This allows them to keep constant tabs on all of their locations and in one instance. When a parking meter showed zero revenue, they were instantly alerted and immediately sent out maintenance staff who found out the meter had run out of battery. They were then able to fix the meter before more revenue was lost. In another instance, when a street showed a near-zero occupancy, the team was able to quickly track down the problem - some on-street parking had been converted to a bike lane - and informed customers immediately to reduce inconvenience.
Partnering with Smarking, EasyPark has transformed their business, using data to drive daily parking operations and strategic decision making. They successfully achieved higher efficiency, higher revenue, better parking resource utilization, higher parker satisfactory level, more productive internal collaboration, and more effective ways to test new pricing and payment schemes. By constantly pushing the boundaries of parking business intelligence, EasyPark is leading the cultural transformation of the parking industry in the region.
The data stream helps our team monitor key parking metrics so that we can identify unusual situations and track down the reasons in a very timely manner. It has many benefits - fewer customer complaints, less revenue loss, better staffing, reduction of costs and so on. The Smarking dashboard is on everyone’s desktop all of the time, and runs real-time in our operations center, it has become the way that we do business.
- Nigel Bullers, Chief Executive Officer
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