Mississippi State Turns to T2 for All Its Parking Needs
Mississippi State University was established in 1878 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of the State of Mississippi. As a land-grant institution, the University was founded to fulfill three broad purposes: learning, research, and service. These purposes continue to be seen today through the dedication of MSU faculty, administrators, and staff.
MSU Parking and Transit Services was housed within the Police Department until 2003, when it was separated out into its own department. Soon after, they turned to T2’s Flex® software platform for permit management and enforcement. However, the rest of their parking solutions and equipment were provided by a variety of vendors, which over time started to create challenges.
Unreliable PARCS equipment became a source of major headaches for MSU Parking and Transit Services. They regularly experienced total system failures, which inconvenienced both parkers and staff, as extra enforcement officers were needed to monitor the gated lots in case the system went down.
MSU’s single-space parking meters were also a burden for staff. Once a week, officers had to collect coins from each meter using a metal cart, lug the cart down to the bank, spend an hour counting coins, run them through a coin machine, and bring the cash back to the parking office. Not only was this an inefficient process, but it also took a physical toll on the officers.
Additionally, the handheld enforcement devices MSU Parking and Transit Services were using had become obsolete and were holding the department back. The devices required nightly data uploads, which prevented MSU from both monitoring real-time activity and implementing pay-by-plate or mobile payment apps.
“It didn’t take long to educate yourself and know that there were a whole lot of better things out there, both from a management standpoint and a customer service standpoint,” said Jeremiah Dumas, Executive Director of Transportation.
To solve these challenges, MSU Parking and Transit Services wanted to unify its operation with T2. However, the State of Mississippi had recently all but eliminated sole-source procurement, presenting yet another challenge. “We fell under the traditional procurement laws, which meant lowest and best would win,” Dumas explained, which meant that MSU might not even be able to keep T2.
“We kind of took a holistic approach and looked at the market to see what all was out there. We wrote an RFP. And we had to get multiple steps of approvals,” Dumas stated. After receiving approval from the local procurement office, the Mississippi Institutions Higher Learning, and the Mississippi Department of Information Technology Services, MSU was approved to award a contract for a unified solution with T2 for ten years.
“That allows us over this ten-year window to not worry about procurement and to really build our system around all the things that are great from a management standpoint and a customer service standpoint,” Dumas explained.
“It’s been a multi-step process, but that unified solution and that one contract has been a game-changer for us in order to modernize everything we have and really push the envelope.”
Jeremiah Dumas, Executive Director of Transportation
“With the awarding of that contract, we immediately began evolving all our PARCS equipment,” Dumas said. MSU Parking and Transit Services has replaced every single gate on campus with T2 PARCS equipment. They also opened a new parking garage using T2 PARCS equipment and are in the process of building another garage with Logan hardware, T2’s newest PARCS line.
MSU Parking and Transit Services has also replaced all its single-space, coin-only parking meters with T2 Luke® II Pay Stations and added mobile payments. These multi-space, card-only units have eliminated the time-consuming coin collection process while integrating seamlessly with the mobile payment platform.
On the enforcement side, MSU added mobile LPR through T2 partner Genetec and upgraded from their handheld devices to iPads running the T2 Mobile Enforcement App. These two solutions work together seamlessly to provide officers with real-time data and make issuing citations as easy as the press of a button.
Lastly, MSU has added T2 FlexPort, an online portal that allows customers to purchase permits or pay a citation from any computer, tablet, or smartphone. Plus, thanks to an integration with Banner, students, faculty, and staff are able to log in with their University credentials and pay using their student accounts or via payroll deduction.
“It’s been a multi-step process, but that unified solution and that one contract has been a game-changer for us in order to modernize everything we have and really push the envelope,” Dumas stated.
T2’s PARCS solution has made a huge difference for MSU. From a management standpoint, staff can receive notifications when a PARCS device goes down or there’s a ticket jam, enabling them to quickly respond to the issue. From a customer service standpoint, “People are really appreciative of the fact they have gated parking that is reliable, where the permits work and the gates aren’t up 75 percent of the time because of a gate failure,” Dumas explained.
Switching to T2 Luke II Pay Stations has also been a success. Customers love the pay stations’ ease of use and extend-by-phone functionality, while staff appreciate the integration with MSU’s enforcement solutions. When enforcement officers look up a license plate, they are able to see whether the vehicle has paid via a pay station or mobile payment, or if it has a valid permit in Flex. “It would be so time-consuming if those were not unified, that we really couldn’t do it. You couldn’t use multiple technologies from an enforcement side and have it be worth the time it would take,” Dumas said.
Further, Dumas has seen an evolution in MSU’s visitor parking over the past several years. Previously visitors had to come into the parking office and purchase a physical permit. Now they have the option to purchase and print a permit online using FlexPort, pay on campus at a pay station, or use the mobile payment app. “All those things have been significant improvements from a customer service standpoint compared to what we used to do,” Dumas stated.
Ultimately, those customer service improvements are the biggest success for MSU Parking and Transit Services, both for customers and staff. “People don’t call parking and tell you what you’re doing right. People call to tell you everything you’re doing wrong,” Dumas explained. “We receive far less calls, despite offering a far broader realm of solutions, than we ever have before. And I think that is indicative of the success we’re having with offering more options.”