Bend, Oregon was already one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities, and in-migration has increased as the quality of life has drawn many remote workers. The population has grown from about 20,000 residents in the 1980s to over 110,000 residents today. Also a popular tourist destination due to its blend of awe-inspiring outdoor spaces and its rich culture and art scene, the City is famous for its legendary Bend Ale Trail, the largest beer trail in the West. Bend can get up to 20,000 visitors a day during peak season. Because of its growth, parking management is a priority for city officials in Bend, and they are embracing technology to become a true smart city that delivers incredible service and value to residents and visitors alike.
The City of Bend had a legacy parking payment and enforcement system that was 20 years old and relied on an outsourced management company. In 2018, Bend’s City Council restructured and set goals for a new Parking Services Division to leverage the latest technology and establish new parking districts. After adding these additional districts, the City’s third-party management company costs grew from $195,000 to $350,000. The team began work to move operations in-house by bringing parking and enforcement management under this new division.
Tobias Marx, Parking Services Division Manager at the time of restructuring, was focused on maximizing efficiency in the department. His limited access to reporting, however, made it difficult to gain insights into their operations. This hindered the team’s management capacity and the ability to respond to complaints, making it more difficult to help residents with citation issues or disputes. The disconnect between what could be seen and managed by city employees versus the needs of residents and visitors often resulted in lackluster customer service experiences.
Due Diligence Without RFP
In early 2020, the City adopted an Innovation Strategic Plan that included over 70 specific projects aimed at improving service delivery and meeting the changing needs and expectations of the community. As part of this initiative, Tobias and his team were tasked with sourcing a new mobility solution. The City avoided going to RFP by using negotiated contracting through NCPA, but still did their due diligence and reviewed multiple proposals. The team ultimately chose Passport’s digital platform for their mobile pay parking, digital enforcement and permitting, license plate recognition (LPR) and payment processing. Bend’s leadership supported the decision based on the cost-savings that were identified as well as the future-proof technology that Passport offered.
Parking Choice and Convenience
One of Bend’s goals was to provide multiple ways for residents and visitors to pay for parking. To achieve this goal, the team launched Passport’s mobile pay parking app, Passport Parking, across its spaces. Through Passport, they can offer dynamic pricing, which is customizable, including set rates for locals and a different pricing structure for visitors, oversized vehicles, compact cars, and more. This strategic and thoughtful approach to parking now nets the City $100,000 in parking revenue, but officials believe they could see an increase of up to $500,000.
Bend’s long-term vision is much larger than just the app. Ultimately the City wants to leverage Passport’s digital platform to integrate seamlessly with other applications that can facilitate parking payments. As Bend progresses towards a smart city infrastructure, they envision having multiple vendors integrated into one ecosystem powered by Passport, allowing visitors to pay for parking through the app that is most convenient for them.
Increased Compliance through Free Parking
Bend’s ultimate goal is to eliminate parking enforcement altogether by having a system so easy to use that people will voluntarily pay for parking and/or follow free parking rules that were historically abused. In an effort to promote parking compliance, the City began a free parking compliance program with a 6-week educational campaign urging parkers to register their car. If a parker failed to do so, they would receive two weeks of warnings before receiving a citation. This has helped first-time violators understand the free parking rules better. Now, all 2-hour parkers in “free zones” are required to start a parking session in Passport’s mobile app. Since implementation, Bend has already seen a decrease in the abuse of free parking which they believe can be attributed to their educational campaign and new signage.
Cost-Effective Expansion of Enforcement with LPR
When Bend expanded their parking districts, they knew they needed a solution to help them monitor the additional spaces. With Passport’s digital enforcement and LPR solutions, they can now monitor zones without leaving the enforcement vehicle. They were also able to eliminate the expense of additional employee hours that would have otherwise been needed in a boots on the ground operation. By managing enforcement in-house through Passport instead of through a third party management company, officials were able to cut $100,000 in annual spend and expect to save a quarter of a million dollars in the 2021-2022 fiscal year.
In addition to saving money, Passport is also saving the City precious time. Tobias explained he used to spend over half of his day manually processing citation appeals. Now, with Passport’s digital enforcement solution in place, it takes him 30 minutes. “Bend attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, so it’s vital that we offer easy parking payment options and equip ourselves with technology to encourage parking compliance,” he says. “We would have never been able to make these enforcement upgrades without Passport.”
Addressing Habitual Parking Offenders
The prior system only had one citation type, but now with Passport, Bend can customize multiple citation types to fit their needs. The City now offers an early payment discount while also escalating penalties for habitual offenders through a direct vehicle lookup integration with the Oregon DMV. For example, a habitual offender with 6-9 citations pays 200% in penalties, and the fines increase after the offender reaches 10 or more citations. On-street data, such as license plate number and time spent parked, is compared with back office data in real-time to produce the correct citation for the violator.
Digital Permit Management
Bend was in need of a new permitting solution, after launching new parking districts that included paid employee permit parking. Employees who utilized the lot were upset that they were expected to pay full price to park for work. After filing an official complaint to the Parking Services Division, Bend used Passport’s digital permitting to offer a solution. The City created self-administered employer accounts for businesses across the community to access bulk discounted parking permits. This helps save time and delivers a better experience because they no longer have to process each permit application and permit payment individually, which previously led to frequent fraud alerts and card declines.
Payment Processing Savings
In order to use Passport’s digital platform to its full potential, the City of Bend switched to Passport Payments for payment processing. With this switch, the City now has access to negotiated small ticket interchange rates as well as chargeback support including waived fees and automated chargeback processes for revenue recovery.
Advice to Other Municipalities: Become Future-Proof
Tobias’ advice to other municipalities considering a digital mobility platform is to “be proactive and make the changes to future-proof your parking and enforcement.” He added that “We would have never been able to make any of these changes without Passport.”
Passport is proud to be a partner in Bend’s efforts to execute the innovation strategy to streamline the City’s aging processes as much as possible while approaching their innovation capacity from a holistic/macro level.