In a recent industry study, 38% of respondents saw cashless payments becoming more important, with 49% of respondents noting the emergence of mobile payments. This demand was seen well before COVID-19, with the pandemic only increasing demand and moving up timelines for adoption of contactless payments in both the public and private sectors. With this increased adoption comes the need to implement technology to enforce cashless payments, ensuring enforcement supports the turnover of parking spaces and overall compliance. License Plate Recognition (LPR) technology, commonly referred to as LPR, ALPR or ANPR is the perfect fit for enabling these contactless payments and conducting a number of other key tasks for a parking operation. While great content exists in the industry around the myriad uses of LPR technology, it’s of equal importance to understand how to implement this technology responsibly and effectively. In this post, we’re going to discuss 5 steps in implementing an LPR program, sharing our lessons learned from hundreds of LPR implementations across the globe.
Step 1: Understand the History and Future of LPR
When understanding where we’re going as an industry, it’s important to discuss where we have been. In the beginning, on-street parking was dominated by single-space, coin-only mechanical parking meters. Enforcement was handled by Parking Enforcement Officers (PEOs) who mostly walked their beats on-foot, issuing hand-written parking violations. Later came the introduction of multi-space meters, operating in a Pay and Display or Pay by Space mode. This jump enabled more payment options and accounted for less points of failure but left open the opportunity for parkers to abuse their paid parking time. This drove the adoption of the Pay by License Plate payment option that ties a parker’s license plate number only to an allotted time frame within a specific area. This new payment modality created an opportunity for more efficient enforcement, using LPR cameras to capture a license plate, check against a permitted list and generate an instantaneous alert on the vehicle in question. Gone are the days of walking a set beat, often in extreme temperatures. The innovation didn’t stop there, these same cameras can be used to complete enforcement in new and innovative ways such as issuing parking citations by mail, enforcing bus and bike lanes, and more. While local legislation needs to catch up to what technology is capable of, this is the enforcement of the future.
Step 2: Develop an LPR Policy
Once an LPR technology has been procured, both an internal and external policy should be crafted and adopted, to provide transparency for the public and a set of standard operating procedures for staff. To do so, a parking operation should first research any state statutes that dictate the use and data retention surrounding LPR data. An excellent resource can be found on the National Conference of State Legislatures website, which has a breakdown for all states that have implemented a policy. A second best practice is to consult with colleagues in other departments using LPR, to understand their policies, experiences or best practices. This could be working with local law enforcement to understand their best practices, or colleagues in the industry using the technology in a similar fashion. These conversations should assist in developing a public-facing and internal-facing policy on LPR use. Specifically, how long is the data being retained, what data is being retained and who is using the data and for what purpose. With any LPR provider, extensive system audit functionality should be in place, allowing operations to understand exactly how the system is being utilized, which should be reviewed on a frequent basis.
Step 3: Develop a Communication Plan
Once an LPR policy has been crafted and approved, a communication plan should be developed for community stakeholders, which include elected officials, the general public and internal parking staff. Each group has a unique set of questions that should be addressed. Many of our clients have utilized social media in combination with a press release and collaboration with a local news outlet to disseminate information. With any new technology, questions arise that need to be addressed. As an industry we need to voice the benefits that the technology provides, such as allowing for easier payments, publicizing parking spot availability, and helping to keep the community safer. The same technology also enables more efficient enforcement, which benefits local business owners by ensuring that parking spaces are turning over regularly, ensuring the public can find a parking space to allow them to visit the local business, University or commercial retail location.
Step 4: Appoint a Project Lead
One of the most important elements of a successful LPR rollout is unfortunately commonly overlooked, which is to establish an internal project manager. Every technology provider should establish a project manager that not only helps coordinate logistics and conduct training, but also shares lessons learned from projects with a similar scope. It is essential for the technology provider’s project manager to have a counterpart within the entity rolling out LPR. This counterpart would become the internal stakeholder who works closely on the overall rollout with the project manager and who can also be responsible for the communication plan and tracking the internal adoption of the technology. This project manager can also be the internal point of contact for refresh training, as new staff comes on board or questions arise around the system’s use. We recommend putting someone in charge of this task who has shown initiative with previous projects and is comfortable with new technologies.
Step 5: Understand Your Outcome
We listed this as the last step but you can argue this is the most important of all. With countless ways that LPR technology can benefit your operation, it’s important for everyone involved to understand exactly how to define a successful rollout for your particular implementation. In addition to the basics such as a defined ‘go-live date’ and adequate training, an end user should define specific reports, dashboards, and studies that LPR technology can provide. Rather than simply talking about the project at hand, technology providers should understand the long term 5-10 year view on how technology will be used. Understanding outcomes allows for the scalable growth you should come to expect.
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