The Solution Isn’t Unrestricted Free Parking For All. Sorry.
The word “free” is known to professional marketers as one of the most powerful words in their messaging arsenal. The word has the ability to heavily influence consumer behavior. Sometimes free is good, sometimes it’s bad. In this case, we think around the clock FREE HOSPITAL PARKING for everyone might do more harm than good.
If a hospital parking lot suddenly announced their lot was now a free parking area, the word “free” would apply to anyone, with any agenda, with any reason to park for any amount of time. Can you see where this is going? Let us now introduce you to the dilemma of parking stall scarcity. We’ve already reviewed the parking stall turnover propaganda that doesn’t pass the smell test. However parking stall turn-over rates and available parking stalls are two completely different things. It is the responsibility of the Health Authority to supply enough parking stalls at each hospital that meet the needs of all hospital patients, their supporters and staff. Turning over those stalls to create more availability is a function of the health care process. Our tax dollars should not be spent building parking facilities beyond the calculated needs of the hospitals capacity to serve the public. Therefore there needs to be a mechanism in place to ensure hospital parking lots remain exclusive to those who use the hospital; patients, their supporters and staff.
Our Proposed Plan Would…
Create and maintain parking exclusivity using License Plate Recognition (LPR) technology.
The origins of hospital pay parking go back to a time when there were few options to prevent the abuse of free for all hospital parking facilities. A mandatory parking user fee promised quicker stall rotation and endless financial benefits for the Health Authorities and parking management companies. With the ever increasing demand for hospital services, we need a better solution that works for everyone. LPR technology is used by municipal bylaw enforcement officers and is capable of determining if individual vehicles are included in a database that is updated in real time. The combining of existing rigid hospital admission procedures and regular foot patrols using LPR technology will identify vehicles not associated with staff, hospital patients and their supporters. By discriminating between those who have genuine reason to be at the hospital and everyone else, an exclusive parking environment can be maintained.
Expedite the parking procedure.
Finding the nearest parking ticket kiosk and submitting a payment constitutes every patients first duty when attending most BC hospitals. This is unacceptable when accessing a social service at the time of a medical emergency. It just so happens that many people are dealing with a medical crisis at the time of arriving at a hospital. While getting rid of the parking meters altogether must happen in a reformed system, an expedited entrance can also be slowed down by the search for an available parking spot. Once again, technology can help solve this problem. Sensors that monitor all parking stalls in real time are able to direct incoming traffic to where they can be found quickly without the frustration of driving around aimlessly. Systems like this are already proven, in use and readily available in Canada.
Offer visitors additional parking time for a fee.
Our campaign goal remains steadfast; no mandatory parking fees or threat of violation notices for hospital patients and their supporters. These folks will not be put in a position where they become prey for profit seekers. For those who visit a hospital to support a patient, free parking could be offered for only a limited time. This concept shows up in the user-submitted ideas in our poll; free for a fixed amount of time and then a nominal fee for additional time. Capping the amount of free parking time for supporters might be necessary in heavily trafficked downtown neighbourhoods. Such a mechanism would help balance the need for visitor turn-over while encouraging these supporters of patients to continue to visit. Visitation of hospital patients is an important part of the healing process. This claim is backed by evidence.
Issue and collect violation revenue for abuse.
The current system allows all sorts of abuse of the parking facilities that are built using the funds from Health Authority operating budgets. As long as the meter is topped up, anyone can park in a hospital parking lot for any amount of time for any reason. A reformed system will seek out vehicles using the hospital parking facilities that are not patients, supporters or staff. Through a well publicized informational campaign, the Health Authorities will make clear the new parking rules will inflict severe financial punishment for those who can’t resist the temptation of “free” hospital parking without registering as one of the three groups that have legitimate business parking at a hospital. It has been previously suggested that municipal governments could take part in the patrol of hospital parking facilities and handle violation issuance and collection.
Analyze parking data for better lot management.
The deployment of parking lot management technology brings the additional benefit of big data and the ability to analyze it. Understanding parking trends can help identify opportunities that would benefit the public as well as the Health Authorities who would gain valuable insight into how their lots are utilized.
Images courtesy of SmartShare Solutions, Inc. A Vancouver BC based company.
Do You Have A Better Idea? Something To Add?
We certainly don’t have a monopoly on the best ideas to solve the problem of hospital pay parking. If you’ve got something to contribute, please contact us. If we think it’s worthy, we’ll publish it here.