Ball State Unifies Parking Operations
Ball State University is the 4th largest university in Indiana and, like many institutions of higher education, is growing and changing today more than ever. New technologies, student demands and business needs compete for the attention of parking staff. Luckily, Ball State has found in T2 Systems a partner to aid their growth.
UNIFI Parking Management
One substantial benefit of the UNIFI Parking Management Platform is that organizations can easily configure and reconfigure the system to help achieve business goals into the future. BSU has gradually added and modified their permit management, enforcement and other aspects of the parking management system since 2003 as their needs have changed.
“To me, unified parking management means the ability to see the whole picture, and to manage the whole operation under one umbrella,” said Nancy Wray, Parking Services Manager. “I don’t have to go to two or three different systems—it’s all right there. It just makes the whole operation run smoothly because every piece of the system is communicating with everything else. If an item updates in one place, it’s reflected everywhere else.”
The T2 Flex open architecture was a major decision point for Wray and her team. “T2 integrates with all kinds of companies—meters, Banner, etc.—which makes it so much smoother on my side of the house from a business standpoint because I don’t have all those hoops to jump through.”
“The staff at the front counter do not have to enter much data anymore, so they can focus on assisting the customer.”
“The University has converted student records into Banner. For the last two years, we’ve been working on that transition,” said Wray. “We used to get data from the legacy data system, and we had to do that again through Banner. T2 was great to work with in this process, and the Banner integration for our office was implemented smoothly. We can communicate student information back and forth that helps us keep our database current and error-free.”
“We don’t currently send citations to the bursar’s office,” said Wray, “We hold onto them in the parking office. But there is one exception: we do place a hold any student account with more than $25 in unpaid parking fines. So we run a task every day to hold accounts with more than $25 outstanding and release those that have been paid. It’s automatic.”
Digital Multi-Space Parking Meters
As Wray sought flexible payment options for her growing constituency, she decided to deploy T2’s Digital Luke® II multi-space parking meters, largely because of the integration between the EMS backend system and T2 Flex. “The Digital parking meters have worked out well for us,” Wray said. “When the enforcement officer is on patrol, their handheld tells them the parking space information around who has paid through the Luke II parking meters and any unpaid spaces, right then and there. That integration has really been helpful because the officers have easy access to the right information. The handheld even updates as they walk through. Rarely do I ever have a customer say “I paid at 1:02 and I got this ticket at 1:58,” because of the real-time communication.”
“Handheld Enforcement has helped us get ticket data to the front office sooner with real-time communication,” Wray said. “This allows for better customer service as well as timelier billing.” “We also do lot counts through our handhelds, which has been really helpful,” Wray said. “The enforcement officers take their handhelds out for lot counts, and then we can pull lot counts from Flex very easily.”
“Permit management works out really well because it is just so easy to keep track of the numbers you have sold in a specific area,” Wray said. “It’s simple to tell if the permits are inactive or active. And because we can scan the barcode, it populates the permit for the customer.
“This is also true for enforcement,” Wray continued, “They just scan the permit and can tell if the permit belongs to that car. For instance, if a student has a permit already and then gets a new license plate, T2 Flex knows that the plate and permit don’t match, and Flex handheld enforcement can recognize that it is not a match. The enforcement officer then can make their decisions faster with better information.”
“One of the best things we ever did here was go T2 hosted,” Said Wray. “When we first started with Flex, our servers were here. The University was uncomfortable with allowing any student information to go off campus for security reasons. But there were no Oracle folks here on campus, and I was sort of on my own with upgrades—T2 was great with walking us through all that, but it was still a burden on our staff.
“I finally got the university administration convinced that we needed to investigate the whole idea of hosting, and since IT had such a heavy workload, they ended up getting behind me to support going T2 hosted,” Said Wray. “Now it’s easy for everybody to see that T2 does such a great job with security. It really puts folks’ minds at ease. I don’t worry about backups or uploads, it just happens. If I need assistance, it’s all right there.”
Employees Love It
“The system we had prior to T2 required a lot of hand-entry data; everything we did was data entry,” Wray said. “We had piles of information, but we couldn’t attach citations to a permit. Then we went to T2.
“The staff at the front counter do not have to enter much data anymore, so they can focus on assisting the customer without having to focus on both customer service and data entry accuracy.” And Wray is seeing other benefits in her team since moving to T2 Flex, too.
“Training new employees is much simpler than it used to be because Flex is so user friendly. So, as long as you train the employees with business practices, the usage of Flex is not a barrier to success.
“While our processes are much more unified than they used to be prior to T2,” Wray said, “Our goal is to implement T2 eBusiness to make doing business with Parking Services much more accessible for purchasing permits, paying citations, managing waitlists, and filing appeals online. From a customer standpoint, implementing T2 eBusiness will smooth a lot of wrinkles out for them. I’m looking forward to removing the lines in the fall for permit season. And whenever the students can take control of their parking decisions into their own hands while remaining compliant, it’s a great move.” “Unified parking management is a goal that we continue to work on.”