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 who can work remotely. 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. It is also a great choice for family-friendly adventures such as cave tours in ancient lava tubes. Bend can get up to 20,000 visitors a day during peak season.
Because of all this, parking management is a priority for the decision-makers 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 which relied on an outsourced management company. In 2018, Bend City Council restructured and set goals for a newly established 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 into this new Division.
At the time of the restructuring, Tobias Marx filled the role of Parking Services Division Manager. Tobias aimed to maximize efficiency in the department, and he wanted reporting and information access, but he had limited access to reports to gain insight on the efficiency of their permits or enforcement. This lack of access hindered the team’s management capacity and the ability to respond to complaints making the City less able to help residents with citation problems 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. The Parking Services Division needed control and management capacity to respond to issues and deliver excellent service.
Due Diligence with Negotiated Contracting
The City supplemented the RFP by using negotiated contracting through NCPA but still did extra due diligence and reviewed multiple proposals. As soon as the contract with Passport was official, the system was up and running in a few weeks once the implementations team got to work. In late 2020, the Parking Services Division of the City of Bend began leveraging the full Passport Operating System to offer Passport’s mobile pay parking, parking enforcement with License Plate Recognition (LPR) technology, payment merchant processing, and digital permitting solutions.
The end-to-end Passport solution supports strategic initiatives Bend put into practice as they look to the future. 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 championed the Passport system based on the City’s cost savings and the single back-end system that will be the foundation for all their parking, permitting, enforcement, and LPR needs. Bend’s Leadership supported the implementation of Passport because of their commitment to establishing agile processes that will allow them to future-proof their technology.
Parking Choice and Convenience
When it comes to paying for parking, Bend wants to give residents and visitors choices. They started by launching Passport’s mobile pay parking app, Passport Parking. Because the Passport Operating System can facilitate seamless integrations with other applications, Bend can manage other digital payment options from a single unified backend. Ultimately, Bend wants to leverage the Passport Operating System to deliver a seamless experience with other mobility solutions like Google Maps and accept wallet payments from Apple Pay and Google Pay. As Bend progresses towards Smart City infrastructure, they will have multiple vendors integrated into one ecosystem. Because they are a tourist destination the City wants visitors to be able to use whichever application or payment method is most convenient to them.
Bend currently has 800 paid parking spaces but is adding more to a total of 3,000. Through Passport, they will 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 dynamic and thoughtful approach to parking infrastructure now nets the City $100,000 in parking revenue, but this will pave the way to have a solid foundation to ramp up to $500,000.
Better Compliance; Free Parking
Tobias’s long-term vision is to eliminate parking enforcement by having a system so easy to use that people will voluntarily pay for parking and follow free parking rules. They have already achieved a significant reduction in the abuse of free parking in Bend by leveraging Passport’s innovative technology. They now require all free 2-hour parkers to start a parking session in the mobile payment app. The City began the free parking compliance program with a 6-week education campaign urging parkers to register their car, plus two weeks of warnings if they failed to do so. The City helped first-time citation getters understand the free parking rules better. $0 transactions went up 200% after their rollout of the educational campaign and new signage, so the leaders can see that people are widely compliant with free parking rules.
Fast & Accurate Enforcement Appeals
Tobias explains he used to spend over half of his day manually processing citation appeals. Now, with a digital 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.” – Tobias Marx, City of Bend Parking Services Division Manager
Cost-Effective Expansion of Enforcement with LPR
The City expects future enforcement revenue to be a net gain due to cost savings over their 6 figure expenses with their previous third-party management contract. With LPR, one person in a car can monitor entire areas without getting out of the vehicle. The City added an entirely new parking district with 2,000 parking spaces. With Passport Digital Enforcement with LPR, they avoided an additional $80,000 third-party cost increase for the additional parking area. Additionally, they eliminated the expense of additional employee hours in parking enforcement. With the $100,000 cut to their parking enforcement contract by bringing enforcement in-house, the City expects to save a quarter of a million dollars in 2021-2022 with Passport.
Addressing Habitual Parking Offenders
Bend can also customize their citation types to fit their needs. The City can offer an early payment discount while also escalating penalties for habitual offenders through a direct vehicle lookup integration with the Oregon DMV. “It is my biggest sigh of relief,” says Tobias. For an average citation, the parker can get a discount if they pay for their violation quickly, and habitual offenders are addressed by exponentially increasing penalties. Their prior system had only one citation type, but they have many options in the Passport system and can customize citation types and costs to their needs. A habitual offender with 6-9 citations pays 200% in penalties, and with ten or more citations, the fines go higher. The citation customization feature relates directly to the LPR and officer’s efficiency on the street. Passport made it easy because the officer simply issues the citation, and the Passport system produces the citation according to what kind of offender they are.
Digital Permit Management
One of the Passport Operating System highlights is that all the parking infrastructure components are on one system, plus there is flexibility in adjusting it to the City’s needs. Bend manages its parking permit program digitally through the City’s website and other resident’s business sites. A beneficial feature of Passport Permits that Bend takes advantage of is employer accounts. The City can give businesses in the community access and manage their own employee’s permit accounts. The City saves 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.
An example of how they use the employer accounts to deliver a better experience started as a perceived problem. The City rolled out a new mixed parking district in 2020, and it includes multiple types of parking, and people who work there can have an employee parking permit. At first, the employers were upset with the new paid parking district, and their contact with the Parking Services Division started with a complaint. The City created self-administered employer accounts, and they benefited from a bulk discount on parking permits and parking passes. Ultimately, they had an excellent resolution, and they are among their most satisfied customers.
Payment Processing Savings
The City of Bend switched to Passport Payment Processing, and they expect to see significant savings by unlocking lower negotiated interchange rates. They also no longer need to pay chargeback fees, as Passport waives them for their payment processing clients. Their rates are now uniform, and they will avoid the typical “punishment fees” problem common in parking payments because Passport leads the industry in processing small payment amounts.
Advice to Other Municipalities: Become Future-Proof
Tobias’s advice to other municipalities considering a digital enforcement solution with LPR 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 all these enforcement changes without Passport.” A key component in their drive to deliver excellent customer service requires that their system have a quick online appeal process. The system must be straightforward and allow staff to find the pertinent info easily in a single backend. An end-to-end solution enables the Parking to Services Division and City staff to help at their first contact without passing the frustrated parker to another place in search of a resolution.
The City expects better compliance as they use enforcement as a change management education tool for parkers while simultaneously seeing a net revenue loss turn into a net revenue gain. With their third-party enforcement management company, there was a net revenue loss of -66% for 2019. By managing their enforcement with Passport, they narrowed that loss by 48% in 2020, and they are hoping to see net revenue in the black in 2021. For the City of Bend, it has never been about revenue alone; they are most focused on excellent service for residents and visitors, parking compliance, and reduction in enforcement costs. Passport is proud to be a partner in their efforts to execute their innovation strategy to streamline the City’s aging processes as much as possible while approaching their innovation capacity from a holistic/macro level.