Ron Dyson outlines the significance of recent developments in enforcement and processing technologies
A comprehensive Sustainable Travel Plan to manage the increased traffic implications of a major multi-million pound campus extension recently led to the University of York becoming the latest user of an advanced management and processing system for all parking permits – as well as adopting tighter enforcement procedures to ensure compliance with new parking regulations.
Local authorities across the UK are also taking advantage of new developments in enforcement technology to reflect their new areas of responsibility and new powers embodied within The Traffic Management Act 2004. Such developments include the adoption of CCTV technology for effective bus lane enforcement and new ways of clamping down on parking contraventions around school gates and on key city center roads.
The new technologies are making quite a difference to the efficiency and effectiveness of parking enforcement while also providing a major contribution to increased standards of customer service as well as improved traffic flow in and around towns and cities.
A radical re-think in York
“We had to adopt a smarter approach to managing vehicle access and parking,” says the University of York’s Travel Plan co-ordinator, Fiona Macey. “It was imperative that the 1,520 spaces allowed by the Local Authority are made available to those individuals requiring them the most. We needed a radical re-think given the inexorable rise in traffic around the campus.”
Macey and her colleagues held detailed consultations with local bus companies and introduced a major educational program to encourage students and staff to consider cycling, walking, public transport and car-sharing. A detailed assessment of existing parking facilities then evolved into careful planning for the 1,500 additional parking spaces permitted for the campus extension - with dedicated Sustainable Travel Plans prepared for every new building and facility.
“We also recognized the need for much greater discipline in the way we manage permit application and processing, and more stringent enforcement measures,” Macey continues. “Having seen how effective it was at other educational facilities, we decided to introduce the Permit Gateway system from Imperial Civil Enforcement Solutions (ICES).”
Capturing key data from online applications
“The system has greatly simplified administration and provides us with a clear understanding of what we have in terms of parking facilities and the travel requirements of individuals. Thanks to the versatility of the system, we’re also about to go live with an online application system where applicants will answer key questions determined by respective travel plans. This will provide critically important data for controlling and tracking all future parking activities and will inform future strategies for vehicle access and parking across all areas of the enlarged campus. It also ensures coherence for the disparate elements of the various Travel Plans.”
The University has a security center help desk and regular and thorough enforcement patrols with all four parking attendants equipped with handheld terminals to record contraventions and issue Civil Parking Notices (CPNs). All data from the handheld terminals is then downloaded at the end of each day for onward processing and payment recovery.
“The stricter enforcement has made a very real and positive difference to the frequency of contraventions. We’re now planning to extend this with the introduction of new barrier arrangements where swipe card access to car parks is linked directly to the Permit Gateway back-office system. We’ve certainly come a long way in a short space of time but, with the versatile solution we now have in place, I believe we are well placed to cope with further changes over the next five years as the expanded campus takes shape.”
Approved surveillance devices for effective enforcement
Elsewhere, other forms of enforcement technology are having just as much impact. A good example is the breakthrough for reviewing and processing enforcement offenses identified by approved surveillance devices.
Reading Borough Council, for example, has extended and developed its procedures for identifying and processing bus lane contraventions in the town, having seen a dramatic improvement in peak traffic flow as a result of an initial pilot scheme. As the first authority outside of London to tackle bus lane enforcement, the council is now harnessing new technologies and systems developed in partnership with enforcement contractor, NCP Services Ltd (NSL), IT partners, ICES and e-mpirical.
The new CCTV-based solution features the highest level of automation and processing efficiencies currently available, and the authority is now aiming to capitalize on the innovative technology for parking enforcement.
Pioneer builds on first year’s success
In a similar way, the first use of new powers for using CCTV recording equipment in problematic areas of parking enforcement outside of the capital has exceeded expectations. Success using mobile CCTV enforcement to tackle dangerous and irresponsible parking outside of schools has now led to Medway Council adding a further CCTV vehicle to its fleet.
Spearheaded by Rubena Hafizi, Medway Council’s parking manager, the initiative was introduced on the same day that The Traffic Management Act (TMA) 2004 took effect – 31st March 2008 – following extensive consultations with the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) and the development of a dedicated back office processing solution by ICES.
The new mobile CCTV equipment is fitted to leased Smart cars each manned by a driver and one of the council’s Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs). The camera is fitted to a swivelling, telescopic mount that extends up to 12ft in height to ensure an unobstructed 360° view of the area being observed. The equipment allows the CEO to observe and then record parking infringements and offenses during the vehicle’s visits to target schools.
At the end of each day, the recordings are then downloaded onto a DVD or separate USB storage device and transferred onto a dedicated computer terminal. A trained and qualified member of staff reviews the contraventions to verify the offense and then enters all relevant details onto the back-office processing system to enable PCN processing to proceed accordingly, including the automatic link to the DVLA.
While children are at school the two Smart car CCTV enforcement vehicles are normally assigned to undertake other parking enforcement activities to capitalize on their mobility and their effectiveness as a deterrent to motorists who disregard parking regulations. This has helped to reduce road congestion caused by parked vehicles obstructing bus stops and other key areas on main routes in Medway.
“We now know for sure that CCTV has a very important role to play in parking enforcement,” continues Hafizi. “It’s not only a very visible deterrent for irresponsible drivers, it also complements and is fully compatible with our other enforcement practices.”
Satellite technology for identifying offenses automatically
A similar enforcement initiative in Bournemouth has seen the Borough Council go one step further, with the introduction of mobile enforcement systems configured with all relevant geographic details, Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) and enforcement zone timings.
Here, the new software platform developed by ICES in partnership with Systems Engineering and Assessment (SEA) enables the assigned CEO to verify offenses that have been spotted by SEA’s ALPR-enabled ROADflow digital mobile traffic enforcement system.
Housed in a dedicated vehicle manned simply with a driver, this system automatically identifies potential offenses and captures evidence for subsequent assessment on ICES’ new Review Platform at the end of each day - providing full compliance with statutory regulations for enforcement using approved surveillance devices.
The new software enables the CEO to undertake a detailed assessment of all identified contraventions and to add required processing details to each verified offense. This information is then sent automatically to the ICES Parking Gateway back-office management system, which will automatically link with the DVLA and provide details for onward processing in accordance with a local authority’s standard procedures for issuing Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs).
A photograph of the contravention is issued with each PCN and all evidence, including video footage, is placed on a secure page on the council’s website to enable the recipient to review details by simply entering the respective PCN details. Any appeal can also be undertaken online.
“Taking full advantage of new technologies is critical for any authority that wishes to use new enforcement legislation to really make a difference to traffic flows and problems caused by inconsiderate car drivers,” says ICES’ managing director, Ashley Bijster.
“For the first time, the new Review Platform provides a proven and highly effective way to integrate established back-office technologies with the latest advances in surveillance technologies. Using this new solution, a local authority can extend its enforcement capabilities by harnessing technical advances without disrupting existing PCN issue and processing arrangements. This creates a seamless and comprehensive enforcement solution while, at the same time, providing faster and more efficient processing.”
Advances in technology have certainly helped to simplify the complex management and processing implications of an effective enforcement program. As we have seen over the past year, new types of enforcement technologies are also now making their mark – in terms of identifying and recording contraventions as well as acting as a deterrent for irresponsible or inconsiderate drivers.
Equally important, however, is the fact these new technologies and support systems are improving the quality of service to members of the public. Evidence of this is twofold. Firstly, new enforcement technology is reducing dangers, ensuring rolling availability of parking spaces in busy urban areas and helping to prevent delays caused by avoidable obstructions on main traffic routes. And, for those vehicle owners who have contravened the regulations, clear evidence of an offense and simple online payment procedures provide clear justification for a penalty charge and convenient ways for settling the fine.
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