Thursday, July 26, 2012

Is Metro Bleeding Millions from Parking?

Photo via thisisbossi

Yes, says a tipster:
Metro has quietly eliminated dozens of parking attendant jobs without notice. The first 20 or so jobs located at Green Line stations, attendants were dismissed in early June. The second wave of 20 or more attendants were dismissed on the Red Line, in late June. The Orange and Blue lines are next.

The attendants are being replaced by electronic “parking attendant” machines, which are video/credit card machines. Gates can be opened and closed remotely, at an understaffed “command center” located on the basement floor of their headquarters building. The center is currently staffed with four employees, working two shifts to answer customer’s issues.

The system is unable to handle multiple calls. From just one station customers can call multiple times during the day. The parking attendant machines are in 35 stations resulting in thousands of calls.

Also the machines are not designed to collect revenue. For example, when a customer comes to the gate without a SmarTrip card, it was the attendant that directed the customer back to the station to purchase one, or directed the customer to pay with a credit card, or issued an NPIR (Non-Payer Identification Report) commonly know as a “promise to pay” where the customer sends the payment on a later date. (Hundreds of these are issued every day. Metro only receives two to three percent of the payments, as they have no staff to follow-up.).

Now, at the command center for the electronic parking attendants, someone simply pushes a button and allows the customer to go free, because they have no way to collect revenue. They cannot send the customer back because they cannot conduct traffic control from the command center as there may be customers lined up to exit, so the customers are allowed to leave without paying.

Thus the real attendant was instrumental in assisting in revenue collection efforts for Metro. In addition the attendant also alerted Metro when gates were broken (allowing customers to park free) or systems were down. The parking attendant machines have no video capabilities beyond seeing the driver in the car.

To add the electronic parking attendants, Metro has spent a whopping $150,000.00-$200,000.00 per station using two contractors. They plan to recoup this money by increasing the parking rate (which was done July 1) and lowering operational budget projections.

The newly appointed director of operations has ordered this change. By the way, he was also overseeing parking during the mismanagement in 2003 that allowed millions of dollars to be stolen from parking revenue.

Metro also allows millions to go uncollected by allowing vehicles to be parked in the facilities for days and only paying the daily current rate. Metro has no ability to determine how long you have been there and charges you a flat rate even if you’ve been parked for days. Many customers are aware of this and use Metro facilities as storage for their vehicles. Simply leave before 10:30 a.m. or after midnight, and it’s free! Go to any station at 11:45 p.m., and you will find cars lines up waiting for the gates to go up.
Other items:
Officials urge Metro to improve late-night bus service (WaPo)
VRE ridership continues to soar (Examiner)
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