Aspen Improves Efficiency and Customer Satisfaction with Virtual Permits & LPR
Aspen, Colorado, a small resort town nestled in the Rockies, is known for its big slopes, big houses, and big name guests. Founded in the late 1800s as a mining camp during the Colorado Silver Boom, the town developed into a tourist spot in the mid-20th century when nearby Aspen Mountain was developed into a ski resort. Since then Aspen has continued to grow, and today the town is a popular destination year-round thanks to its great hiking, biking, rafting, dining, and arts.
For the City of Aspen Parking Department, this means finding a way to balance the parking needs of its full-time residents, employees of local businesses, and visitors from around the world. While Aspen has a population of just 7,000, during the summer it can see up to 50,000 visitors in a day. In addition, “Because we’re a small town, probably 60 to 70 percent of our employees are driving from downvalley, which is anywhere from 30 to 60 miles,” explained Mitch Osur, Director of Parking and Downtown Services. “We have a huge amount of people coming into town.”
One of the biggest challenges for the City of Aspen is that all of its parkers – residents, employees, and visitors – are competing for limited resources. Aspen has less than 1,000 parking spaces in its downtown core and about 3,000 in its residential zone. Ideally, those spaces in the downtown core would be available to tourists and locals coming into town to spend money. However, Prior to Osur joining the Parking Department in 2014, the majority of the people parking in the downtown core were employees of businesses. Osur made it a goal to free up more spaces for the patrons of these downtown businesses.
Another challenge is ensuring that the full-time residents of Aspen are satisfied with their parking situation. “We have a very aggressive group of locals that have strong opinions about parking,” Osur said, “so consistency and making sure were doing the same thing pretty much all the time is very important.”
Aspen uses T2 Flex software to manage its residential permit program. Residents can purchase up to three virtual parking permits – where their license plate is their credential – from any smartphone, tablet, or computer via T2 FlexPort, an online self-service platform. Going virtual “is a lot better both for the environment and also for enforcement,” Osur stated.
For enforcement, Aspen has been utilizing license plate recognition for almost 15 years. They have four enforcement vehicles equipped with Genetec LPR cameras, which patrol the vast residential areas, and T2’s Mobile Enforcement App, which enables officers to perform permit lookups, receive LPR detected violations, and issue citations – all while integrating seamlessly with T2 Flex in real time.
While Aspen is not “overly aggressive” with collecting on parking tickets, they have worked with T2 to connect with the Colorado DMV to get information faster and send out weekly letters to violators. Aspen also uses T2’s Retrieval of Vehicle Registration (RoVR) solution to track down contact information for individuals from other states.
Additionally, Aspen was one of the first organizations to work with T2 on allowing people to contest citations online. “We use T2 FlexPort to let people contest tickets. Appeals come right into our office, we get the information we need, and then we have worked out a really good system so that we can turn these around quite a bit faster and get information back to people on whether their citation has been dismissed or not.”
“Certainly the efficiency of writing the tickets and also the efficiency of the way the permit system works has been a huge success for us,” Osur said.
T2’s virtual permitting capabilities have saved Aspen time in the office and in the field, while its LPR enforcement integrations have made enforcing Aspen’s large residential zones a breeze. “As my officers go down the street, it’s much easier to cover a lot of ground because we know who has paid and who has not paid,” Osur explained.
Aspen’s enforcement officers are also much more informed thanks to the Mobile Enforcement App. “It’s nice when my officers look up a license plate, to be able to look at the history right then and there in the street,” Osur stated. This improved enforcement, combined with changes to pricing and other strategic decisions, helped Aspen achieve Osur’s goal of freeing up parking spaces for patrons of downtown businesses. “Seven years ago probably 150-200 of the people parking in the downtown core were employees of businesses, and today we’re probably less than 50 on an average day.”
“Work with T2 to go to virtual permits, because if you can have all virtual permits and LPR, you can be really efficient out there in the field.”
Mitch Osur, Director of Parking and Downtown Services
The City of Aspen has also been able to achieve the consistency that its residents desire. For example, its policy is that every person’s first ticket is a warning, and the Mobile Enforcement App makes it easy for officers to identify whether somebody is a first-time offender. “We get nothing but compliments from people that were like, ‘I went back to my car and saw I had a ticket on it, and I was all upset, and then I saw it was a warning at zero value. Thank you!’” Osur said.
Additionally, Aspen’s citation collection and appeals processes have become much more efficient and stress-free for both staff and patrons. T2’s RoVR solution has been “very successful for us to collect money without having to be overly aggressive and/or hire a collection agency,” Osur explained, while automated processes in T2 Flex and online appeals in T2 FlexPort have helped Aspen reduce the amount of time to settle an appeal from four to five weeks to less than four days.
Ultimately, according to Osur, “Our goal is to go 100 percent virtual and try to do as much online as we can, versus having to come into the office.” The City of Aspen is about to reach that goal with T2’s new Residential Permits solution, which they are currently implementing. In addition to providing new backend tools and an improved interface for residents to purchase permits, the solution will enable Aspen to change their handful of lingering paper permits to virtual.
Osur’s top recommendation was to “Definitely go to license plate recognition. It produces efficiency, it makes the officers happy, and it allows you to cover a lot more ground, which is fantastic. Tied in with that, work with T2 to go to virtual permits, because if you can have all virtual permits and LPR, you can be really efficient out there in the field, and I think that’s super important.”
“Technology is changing fast, so be innovative out there and try to do things that really can work for you,” Osur added. “A company like T2 that has pretty much everything covered from A to Z will help you get there, because certainly the more you can do with one vendor, the easier it is for the people that work for me and the municipality itself.”
Header photo by Vlado Sestan on Unsplash