Building on recent improvements to how the City provides parking services, a new on-street parking ambassador model is being introduced, bringing what has traditionally been a contracted enforcement model, in-house under the City’s customer service fold. Parking availability and a positive parking experience is essential to supporting an active and vibrant downtown, and specifically the needs of Victoria’s downtown businesses and the tourism sector.
Starting January 1, Parking Ambassadors will be customer-focused City representatives and advocates for encouraging high parking turnover to support downtown businesses, at the same time providing directions, answering questions and providing additional eyes and ears on the street. An in-house model provides the City greater ability to offer a parking experience consistent with customer service objectives and stakeholder needs, while still regulating parking to ensure there is high turnover of parking spaces downtown.
“We have developed a business model and determined the in-house service can be provided at close to the same cost, while offering exceptional parking services and enhancing the vitality of downtown,” noted Mayor Lisa Helps.
Parking ambassadors will be unionized staff, represented by the Local 50 Chapter of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. The model will include full-time and part-time positions.
Ambassadors will participate in a comprehensive customer service training program, in cooperation with downtown businesses. Timed with the new Ambassadors, the Parking Review Office will also move into City Hall, making it easier for customers to pay their tickets, or have tickets reviewed.
“CUPE members take pride in our work and look forward to improving and better integrating these important services,” said John Burrows, President of the Local 50 Chapter of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. “We are very pleased at the cooperative approach we have been able to establish with our new Mayor Lisa Helps and the City Manager Jason Johnson.”
During consultation in the spring of 2014, over 1,000 citizens provided input to the City on parking changes and perceptions, including a lot of feedback about the downtown parking experience and specifically enforcement. There was a noted desire from respondents to see an increased customer service approach applied.
In June 2014, Council endorsed a series of recommendations regarding parking services, including directing staff to develop an in-house business plan for providing parking enforcement services. In September, a number of changes were made to on-street and parkade rates, as well as the customer service experience. Since making the rate changes and customer service improvements, early results indicate overall perceptions about parking in downtown Victoria appear to be improving. Parking data suggests these efforts have had a positive effect on parking behaviour and customer experience, with fewer tickets written and fewer customer complaints/concerns about parking.
Since September, parkade usage has increased every month. In March 2015, there were 40,000 more transactions in parkades than in March 2014. On-street parking has increased outside of the downtown core, creating more space on-street in the highest demand areas. Use of the City’s new parking app also continues to grow at a steady pace.
The contract with the Commissionaires has been extended to December 31, 2015 to allow for transition. During that time, the City will be hiring for approximately 20-25 ambassador positions. Commissionaires continue to provide security services to several City properties.
Source: City of Victoria
The city did not disclose the increased cost of unionized staff covering this responsibility, but some estimates peg the cost at an additional $300,000 to $400,000 per year, when benefit and pension obligations are factored in.