High Demand Brings Redevelopment
Any regular weekday morning in New Brunswick’s small downtown region, Rutgers students hustle to class, jurors flock to the courthouse, nurses stand outside the medical center in scrubs, and professionals rush to find parking. Nicknamed “The Hub,” the unassuming town’s population triples during the day, ranging from 52,000 permanent residents to over 150,000 residents and visitors. But New Brunswick wasn’t always the bustling center for commerce, industry, and education that it is today. In the 1970s, the City made an effort to rebuild critical city services and industry centers, with parking infrastructure playing a leading role. “New Brunswick has been looked upon throughout New Jersey and by other parts of the country as an example of successful redevelopment,” says Mitch Karon, Executive Director of the New Brunswick Parking Authority (NBPA).
That reputation followed the City’s Parking Authority as they sought to modernize parking management to meet increasing need in early 2015. “There’s a lot of attraction to New Brunswick that brings demand to the parking system,” continues Karon. “We had old, electronic meters for ten years. We needed a better system that was easy for our patrons to use.” Not only were the mechanical meters difficult for the users, but they placed a considerable burden on the operations, maintenance, and enforcement staff. “We were experiencing a lot of coin jams,” says Karon. “It took someone stumbling upon the meters that had jams before we were notified that they were out of order. We might have gone days, even a week, before we realized that the meter was malfunctioning.”
In addition, the Parking Authority’s enforcement officers found the mechanical meters difficult to enforce. “College kids would defraud the meters to get more time. The screens would fog up and you couldn’t see whether it was expired or not,” says Antoine Johnson, Lieutenant of the NBPA’s Enforcement Department.
As one of the largest parking authorities in the state, the NBPA sought a solution to streamline parking management. “We needed a system that gave us the ability to reconcile the revenue collections, while giving us hands on information at a moment’s notice of the condition in the system of each meter,” says Karon.
Efficiency at its Best
With the need for modern parking meters established, the NBPA released a formal request for proposals and selected IPS Group as the most qualified bidder. “When it comes to strategic planning, the NBPA takes into account the efficiency and user friendliness of new technology. The IPS meters met both of those needs and goals,” says Karon. The IPS meters were installed almost instantaneously with staff members retrofitting over 900 meters in two short days.
City processes were immediately impacted by the IPS smart meter’s real-time data feeds and revenue reconciliation tools. Because the IPS Data Management System (DMS) reports revenue per meter, collections staff could more efficiently reconcile revenue collected at the meter with revenue reported in the system. Collection routes were then adjusted to target high-traffic meters. “This maximized cost and revenue, making it worth the collections hours,” says Harry Delgado, Director of Operations of the NBPA. Likewise, the NBPA was able to reduce the number of staff members and staff hours dedicated to collections and reallocate those hours more efficiently. “There’s been a significant savings in staff and labor,” says Delgado. Real-time data has similarly impacted the enforcement department, acting as a second pair of eyes when a dispute is brought to the City. “The DMS is invaluable to enforcement. We can literally go back to see exactly how much money was placed in the meter and when. We use the technology to defend the tickets that we write,” continues Delgado.
While streamlining critical City services, the IPS smart meters provided the capability to implement new pricing structures to manage parking demand. “We were looking for a way to keep up with what’s driving the industry right now: dynamic pricing, remote programming, the ability to take advantage of data and use that information to plan strategies to improve accessibility to parking. We needed the ability to know where the revenue was coming from. With the data we have now, we can plan ahead,” says Delgado. After an analysis of initial system data, the NBPA implemented progressive, or dynamic, pricing. Under this pricing structure, parking rates increase progressively the longer you park. “We’re trying to create availability and accessibility so that patrons can benefit from our restaurants and downtown store fronts. Progressive pricing promotes curbside availability on-street, and it entices the use of our parking decks for visitors who want to stay for a significant period of time. Progressive pricing drives people to where they can find the best price for parking. And based on the time that they intend to park, they now have options,” continues Delgado.
After installation, New Brunswick residents and visitors were able to find the parking they needed. “Our patrons like the IPS meters more than any meter we’ve ever had. It makes their job easier to pay us, and it makes our job easier to enforce that payment,” says Johnson. Likewise, access to real-time data provides operations staff with the ability to design parking policy based on data. “Data is critical in my decision making and planning. Any parking authorities that are concerned about customer service and providing the best service they can in a cost-efficient way use data for decision making. That’s the power of the DMS,” says Delgado.
Now, the NBPA’s influence expands far beyond the City of New Brunswick. In order to provide other regional parking authorities with access to smart parking technology, New Brunswick was influential in the development of the New Jersey Parking Coop (NJPC), which selected IPS Group’s smart meters as their technology of choice. “We’ve been looked upon by other authorities in New Jersey as a leader in the parking field. Others in the state saw how successful we were with the implementation of the IPS on-street meters and they felt it was the best way to go for their own programs,” says Karon.
Since implementing the IPS smart meter system:
- Revenue increased by 29%
- Credit card revenue 55% of total revenue
- 50k annual savings in operational efficiencies
- Meter uptime 98%+
The NBPA has big plans for the future of parking. As innovators in the field, they plan to stay up-to-date in parking trends, upgrading as the parking landscape transforms. “The NBPA is always looking for the latest technology. We plan to add IPS sensors to the meters,” says Karon. As ambassadors for the City of New Brunswick, City staff is excited to utilize the wayfinding capabilities of vehicle detection sensor technology to direct visitors to available parking spaces.
For the NBPA, technology upgrades and IPS Group go hand-in-hand. “IPS has the best meter on the market today,” says Delgado. “At the NBPA, we’re driven by a mantra every year. This year, it was ‘productivity is key.’ One of our productive efforts was implementing the IPS technology. IPS and the NBPA share that mantra. IPS has become a partner in our efforts to become the best parking authority in the state of New Jersey,” says Delgado.
About IPS Group, Inc.
IPS Group, Inc. is headquartered in San Diego, CA (USA), with offices in Canada and Europe (www.ipsgroupinc.com). IPS is a design, engineering, and manufacturing company focused on low-power wireless telecommunications, payment processing systems, and parking technologies and has been delivering smart city technology solutions for over 20 years. The company offers a fully integrated smart product suite comprised of single-space meters, multi-space pay stations, pay station upgrade kits, vehicle detection sensors, smart cash collection systems, and SaaS management software with advanced data analytics. IPS is delivering the Internet of Things (IoT) and Intelligent Parking Systems to transportation and parking operations all over the world.