Transportation agencies throughout the United States have begun implementing advanced parking information systems with the goal of increasing customer satisfaction and improving traffic operations. Through the use of variable message signs (VMS), these systems provide motorists with real-time information about parking availability at appropriate decision points on their route so that they can make an informed decision about where to park.
To determine the benefits of transit applications of parking management systems, the United States Department of Transportation's (USDOT) ITS Joint Program Office and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) conducted a national evaluation of two of the first transit parking management systems deployed in the United States. One system serves two Metra commuter rail stations in Chicago, Illinois, while the other serves a Metro Station in Montgomery County, Maryland.
The parking management system in Chicago, Illinois monitors parking utilization at two adjacent Metra Stations with the use of loop detectors and conveys this information to motorists via eight VMS located at key decision points along expressways and arterials near the stations. The Montgomery County system monitors parking utilization at the Glenmont Metro Station with the use of video detection and conveys information to motorists via three VMS located near the station.
The coordination and collaboration of stakeholders is essential for the success of a project involving multiple jurisdictions. It is also important to keep all potentially affected organizations informed of work planned as part of the project. Many of the Chicago and Montgomery County stakeholders felt that without close coordination, their projects would not have been possible. They indicated that active coordination among the various levels of government helped stave off unnecessary future costs and potential relocation of systems. Below are several specific examples that the Chicago project stakeholders faced throughout the course of their project deployment but were satisfactorily resolved as a result of coordination and collaboration between organizations:
- The Village of Tinley Park, which had been a strong proponent of the project from the beginning, had plans to install new custom street lights throughout the area which could have directly interfered with underground work being conducted by Metra as part of the parking management project. Synergies were realized in "dove-tailing" those efforts with Metra's field contractor, who coordinated the electrical connections with the Village's contractors.
- Future electrical hook-up and camera links for the Village of Tinley Park in support of a Public Works / Public Safety initiative were included in later system designs and were able to be installed as part of the parking management system, saving the money.
- The project team found it necessary to coordinate with county road construction in order to complete some of the work required for this project including installation of a transformer as well as required underground work.
- After the initial planning, but before installation was complete, an ongoing development posed a conflict with one of the sign locations: a drugstore that was under development proposed an entrance that conflicted with the proposed location for the sign. The project team eventually agreed to move the planned sign location to accommodate the new development as local acceptance of the project is important.
From the experiences of the Chicago, Illinois and Montgomery County, Maryland teams the following suggestions may be helpful to others facing a similar situation:
- Involve all appropriate stakeholders in a formal and collaborative manner throughout the planning, deployment, and operations phases of a multi-jurisdictional project. The most important institutional lesson learned that both project teams passed on to the evaluation team is that it is critical to involve all appropriate stakeholders in a formal and collaborative manner throughout the planning, deployment, and operations phases of a multi-jurisdictional project such as this. Parking management systems are often integrated into urban or neighborhood environments and, as such, take time to deploy and require a diverse group of stakeholders. Late-breaking or unresolved stakeholder concerns can stall the effort indefinitely.
- Obtain formal endorsement from the leadership of all jurisdictions involved. The project stakeholders found that a second method to prevent stalling was to obtain formal endorsement from the leadership of all jurisdictions involved. The mayor or county executive should seek city or county council endorsement and should designate a staff member or a specific public agency as their organization's champion for the system.
- Identify and define the role of a project champion. The mayor or county executive's champion for the system represented the project in any public policy discussions and funding processes and exercised executive leadership with in the stakeholder group.
- Ensure that project stakeholders work from a formal charter. The project teams implemented a formal charter that helped bind the member organizations to the effort and provided a forum for resolution of issues
This lesson presented specific examples of situations where conflicting projects and jurisdictional goals were resolved through the coordination and collaboration of the stakeholder organizations. Chicago and Montgomery County demonstrated that by getting the appropriate stakeholders involved in the planning, deployment, and operational phases of the project, obtaining the endorsement of jurisdictional leadership, identifying a champion, and binding stakeholders together through a formal charter that a multi-jurisdictional project could lead to collective success.
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