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Digital Solutions at the Street Level: How to Modernize Parking Services

Imagine this: Huge Brinks-style trucks manned with municipal workers crawl through the streets of Chicago, carrying stacks and stacks of quarters across 50 wards of the metropolis. Workers hop on and off collecting coins worth thousands of dollars from parking meters into the back of a truck.

This isn’t fiction. It’s really how the city government used to collect parking fees.

But today, Chicago and other municipalities have digitized their parking services and enforcement – so no more risky trucks in the Windy City. And the municipalities that have turned to digital services are reaping the benefits, said Bob Shepard at Passport, Inc., a digital mobility services provider. Here are three ways digitization can improve services for your community.

Efficiency, Accuracy

Historically, parking enforcement officers used paper lists and checked license plates manually. Was that a zero or an O? You couldn’t be sure. These paper-based processes were inefficient and frequently inaccurate.

Now, there are solutions like Passport that digitize the experience and automate manual processes. For example, the system can automatically flag whether an O is a zero, or vice versa. Automation can save time and resources when both are hard to come by.

Raleigh, North Carolina, for example, was able to cover parking enforcement for the whole city with limited resources. It didn’t have enough people to manage the physical processes of traditional parking enforcement. Adopting a digital solution helped lessen the load on employees while maintaining operations for the city.

Security, Compliance

Unlike documents being stored in a massive filing cabinet, a digital environment provides security with peace of mind.

Anyone with physical access to a filing cabinet can find sensitive information they shouldn’t have. A digital system like Passport’s limits permissions to the right people. It also logs who accesses the system and ensures it’s keeping only the right amount of data for the right period of time.

Digital solutions such as mobile parking apps can also increase compliance while providing a better experience for residents. Through apps, cities can send notifications on expiring parking sessions, and residents can add more time from their phones. The outcome? Parking compliance and revenue goes up, and residents don’t have to interrupt important meetings and nice dinners.


Parking violations don’t affect everyone the same. For low-income residents, a $50 ticket can be a major expense that’s difficult to pay. Further, losing your vehicle from unpaid citations can mean losing your means to employment. The long-term effects are debilitating.

“Looking at the data, if cities offer discounted prices, a longer period of time to pay, or even payment plans, which are solutions that Passport has today, it will actually result in greater compliance of paid citations and increased revenue,” Shepard said.

With the right data and technology, municipalities can lighten the burden for their most vulnerable members.

“Equity and inclusiveness are real focus areas for municipalities. Digital solutions are a way to achieve that,” Shepard said.

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s guide “How to Provide People-Oriented Services: A Guide for State & Local Public Servants.”

Photo by Chait Goli

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