Guest Op-Ed: Parking: A shing Example of Moving Forward

By Mayor Brian M. Arrigo
The combination of proficient management and modern technology can produce rapid, tangible success. One shining example is Revere’s parking department, where current results exceed even optimistic expectations. Revenue from parking meters between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2019 was over $70,000 more than same period in 2018, and revenue for the entire year surpassed $200,000. This is what happens with leadership and innovation.

Start at the beginning
About two years ago, a comprehensive financial review of the parking department revealed a dis-tressing decline in parking meter revenue that began in 2012. The department itself had collapsed into shambles: revenue collection procedures were inept, the city’s parking meters were antiquated and mostly inoperable and enforcement of our parking regulations was inconsistent.
While we were troubled by the findings, we were determined to set a positive course toward fix-ing the problem. We reorganized the department, appointing a new Director whose enthusiasm and vision were perfect for the job. In a matter of weeks, new collection procedures were put in place, and right away we saw an uptick in revenue.
But our objective was more ambitious than just correcting one aspect of one problem in one de-partment. Old systems and old methods, even when they work, are inherently inefficient in to-day’s world. Technology has streamlined procedures and improved quality in almost every aspect of life. That is especially true in government operations.

Transformation at the Parking Department
Inferior equipment and careless collection procedure formed the roots of the parking department mess. Revere’s parking meters dated to the 1990s, or earlier. (We don’t know for sure because the city got them second-hand about 20 years ago). They operated by inserting a coin—which was the only choice many years ago—but were easily manipulated so that fake coins purchased parking minutes almost as easily as real coins. Some meters worked, many didn’t.
Compounding the problem, collecting the coins from the meters involved a hands-on transfer of pouring the quarters into a bag. The system contained no internal accounting function or calcula-tion tabulator.
Besides all their functional infirmity, the meters were ugly—mismatched in size, shape and color.
After fixing the old meters that could be fixed and tightening up collection procedures, our next objective was to replace every meter in the city. New technology in parking meter design prom-ised internal accountability and more options for payment. Obviously, more payment options meant fewer scofflaws, and internal accountability ensured that the revenue collection corre-sponded to what the meter was actually collecting.
By the end of calendar year 2018, every old meter in the city was replaced with new “smart meters” that could be operated by coin or credit card. The new meters contain an internal accounting mechanism and could be emptied only through secured procedures. Aesthetically, they provided a uniform and appealing appearance in the city’s business districts along Broadway and Shirley Avenue.
Most important, the meters can be further modified as new technology becomes available. The credit card option became effective Jan. 1, 2019, and soon the Revere meters will be adapted for operation through a parking app downloaded onto your mobile phone.

The turnaround we carried out in the parking department has produced dramatic results.
• During the first six months of Fiscal Year 2019—July 1 through Dec. 31 of 2018—improved collection procedures on the still-functioning old meters resulted in average rev-enue $6,207 per month.
• After “smart meters” were installed citywide, cash revenue from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2019 jumped to $167,402, or an average of $13,950 per month in coin reve-nue.
• During that same 12-month period, an additional $45,394 was collected via credit card.
• Parking meter revenue during the calendar year 2019 totaled $212,796, or an average of $17,733 per month.
It is likely that these totals will increase again as businesses grow along Shirley Avenue and Broad-way and meter payment can be accomplished through an easy-to-use mobile phone app. This revenue eventually will be used toward enhancements such as landscaping, lighting, and other aesthetic improvements in the parking districts

Taking Action,
Moving Forward

Deficiencies in the parking department were deeply embedded in a culture of apathy and inaction that tolerated old methods and put off corrective measures. In the parking department, and throughout City Hall, we are moving away from the past. We are making the changes and improvements that will make the City of Revere’s government more responsive, efficient, and productive for all our residents.
Productive change takes time, but when done carefully and correctly, the results can be remarka-ble. And the City of Revere Parking Department is one shining example.
Brian Arrigo is Mayor of the City of Revere.

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