Hamilton’s Transition to Digital: Building a Mobility Strategy for the Future

Hamilton’s Transition to Digital: Building a Mobility Strategy for the Future

By Alicia Smart, Passport

Over the past decade, the City of Hamilton has experienced a tremendous influx in urban growth and development. The City, known for its tourism and medical research, is also the fastest growing mid-sized city in Canada for tech and healthcare. This rapid growth and urbanization have caused the City to reimagine its parking operations.

Many areas in Hamilton are undergoing secondary plans to ensure that there are land use, transportation, and infrastructure plans in place to meet the needs of the growing communities. Hamilton’s parking operation handles all on-street parking related matters, inclusive to parking bylaws. In addition to the day-to-day parking that occurs on Hamilton’s 2,700 on-street and 5,000 off-street paid parking spaces, construction, special events and filming heavily utilize parking. Many of the core parking surface lots have made way for urban growth and Hamilton expects this to be a growing trend over the next 10 years.

Up until 2019, a large portion of the City’s parking operation was simply collecting and reconciling cash and coin. Enforcement operations caused a number of issues at the time, including hardware malfunctions and coin jams. Additionally, data collection was almost non-existent due to the coin and cash dependence. “When I joined the parking system in 2017, what I saw was a large group of very hardworking people who were working too hard at the expense of manual processes,” says Amanda McIlveen, City of Hamilton parking operations and initiatives manager. “From past experience, I knew that Hamilton was in need of a massive digital transformation.”

Amanda and her team quickly realized that in a data-heavy industry, it is difficult to run a parking operation efficiently using antiquated and manual processes. Leveraging data allows cities to manage and allocate staff properly, manage parking demand, create efficiency in enforcement operations with software integrations and refine policies and processes due to increased understanding of the business.

“With increased data through digital technologies, we don’t have to work as hard and we can stop guessing,” Amanda explains. “When we stop guessing, we can take the pressure off ourselves because we don’t run the risk of getting it wrong.”

Building a Mobility Strategy for the Future

In July of 2020, the City of Hamilton and Passport partnered together to offer a mobile pay parking solution to residents and visitors. The app allows users to safely manage and extend sessions remotely at roughly 5,400 spaces throughout Hamilton without the need to use coins or to touch parking hardware. This came at a time when Hamilton– and cities across the globe– was especially focused on providing safe, convenient options to pay for parking while continuing its mission to modernize parking operations.

A few short months after launching the technology, Hamilton saw an overall increase in digital transactions and a decrease in cash and coin payments for parking. In fact, from August 2019 to August 2020, digital transactions increased by 17%. The increase in digital utilization and decrease in coin and cash reliance is just what the City is trying to accomplish, and the City expects this increase to continue. Additionally, the City of Hamilton has doubled its mobile transactions since implementation in July of 2020. This increase in utilization can be attributed to social media campaigns and pay station stickers.

“The greatest achievement of all is that we are dealing with less cash transactions,” says Amanda. “It’s leading to less manual labor of sorting and counting money so that we can move toward our goal of becoming a true smart city.”

By leveraging digital and deploying technology, Hamilton is gaining valuable insight into parking trends. Based on mobile revenue collection, the City is able to see where mobile “hotspots” are, including highest turnround rates, highest transactions and more. This allows the City to be even more strategic with their operations and to implement strategies such as targeted enforcement and dynamic pricing.

Going Digital

In addition to Hamilton, below are a few other success stories of other operations who are focusing on a centralized management system, customer choice and future-proofing for the next big wave of technology and innovation.

Asheville, NC: The City of Asheville hosts over 9 million visitors each year, and thousands of those park within the City’s parking lots and on street parking spaces. Asheville’s goal was to provide a better option to handle paid parking payments within the City. Within the first year, the City experienced an increase in mobile payment utilization and an increase in overall revenue. Similar to Hamilton, Asheville has seen an increase in credit card and digital transactions. Additionally, the City saw improvements in its overall operations with decreases in expenses and associated maintenance, such as collection and theft.

Westmount, Quebec: The City of Westmount wanted to combine the use of traditional multi-space meters and modern mobile payments to make it easier for visitors and citizens to pay for parking. By partnering with MacKay Meters and Passport, the City was able to decrease its reliance on cash and offer a pay-by-plate solution with the meters and mobile.

Leveraging a Single Operating System

Our world has become accustomed to digital experiences. In fact, we expect them and prefer them. Whether it’s checking in for a flight, ordering a pizza, or paying for parking, digital is the way we interact for services and it continues to expand into all facets of our daily interactions. With the rapidly changing and competitive nature of this modern curb space, cities must reimagine their traditional parking operation and the technology that supports.

Many of today’s city leaders are thinking about how to manage the interactions of all modes of transportation to create more livable and equitable communities. Traditionally, cities have utilized separate providers– one solution for parking , one solution for enforcement, and so on– which can cause a lot of headache and backend inefficiencies. The new way to approach this challenge is by utilizing a single, end-to-end digital operating system for managing mobile pay parking, parking enforcement, digital permitting and micro-mobility. This solution is designed to unify parking management and to enhance the customer parking experience.

Cities can experience:

  • Centralized mobility and parking management with more streamlines processes
  • Increases in revenue because of increased willingness to pay through easier payment options and increased parking compliance
  • Reduced hardware costs and labor times
  • Enhanced user experience due to more choice with parking options

More Consumer Choice

People expect convenience and choice when it comes to paying for parking. While cities strive to provide this for their consumers, they also have to manage and enforce the parking sessions efficiently.

With an open ecosystem approach to parking through an end-to-end operating system, cities can offer parking payment options to motorists through everyday apps. Additionally, using an operating system with third-party applications allows cities to achieve this from one single source.

While still a new concept to North America, this open ecosystem approach has proven to be successful abroad. For example, the National Parking Register (NPR) in the Netherlands has increased customer choice and operational efficiency by offering 22 mobile payment options through one transactional register. By doing so, the Netherlands averages 300M parking transactions per year and over 70% of that is through mobile pay applications. Additionally, the Netherlands averages a 90% compliance rate.

By transitioning to a digital parking management solution, the City of Hamilton is keeping up with the pace of change and is providing an infrastructure that allows its community to move as efficiently as possible.

“How we think about parking and land use is changing and Hamilton wants to lead that change,” says Amanda. “We are on our way to reimagining the parking system as a mode of transportation that supports walkable cities, bus and light rail systems, bike share, easy charging stations and more. None of this would be possible without digital technology.


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