When the parking team at the University of Missouri started looking at new options for parking systems a couple years back, it found it was one of the few universities still doing everything manually – parking permit requests, distributing physical permits, checking permits and issuing citations. In fact, no piece was electronic in Mizzou’s former system.
This fall, the team has changed this in a big way, making the entire process electronic. While the new system has not been without hiccups, Michael Sokoff, MU director of parking and transportation services, said in the long run, it will allow the parking office to be more customer-focused rather than caught up in so many manual tasks.
“We’re learning like everyone else,” Sokoff said of the system, which was approved in April and completely rolled out by the start of the fall semester. “It’s getting much, much easier. Going forward it will be so much better. What we’ll see is a reduction in stress on people using it every day.”
Making the transition““We’re learning like everyone else,” Sokoff said of the system, which was approved in April and completely rolled out by the start of the fall semester. “It’s getting much, much easier. Going forward it will be so much better. What we’ll see is a reduction in stress on people using it every day.””
―Michael Sokoff, MU director of parking services
The system, NuPark, developed at Texas Tech University and put out to market through their tech transfer program, is based on license plate recognition.
Most faculty and staff were just rolled over for this year in the new system, based on the permit they had last year. Sokoff’s team just asked faculty and staff to enter only their license plate numbers – up to three – online to be fed into the plate recognition system. No approval or confirmation was needed. Faculty and staff are able to change license plate entries in real time online at any time.
Those with dual permits, allowing faculty/staff to park in more than one parking garage or lot, did have to reapply over the summer. Sokoff personally reviewed each dual application and approved or declined the requests. Dual permits had not been reviewed in a few years, so it was the right time to make certain the requests made sense based on job positions and other criteria, Sokoff said. Those who applied for a dual permit were notified if their request was denied. Otherwise, no notification was made. Going forward, dual permits will only be reviewed if a change is requested.
There was a slight lag time between when faculty and staff applied for dual permits and when Sokoff was able to wade through the approximately 1,000 requests. It’s possible tickets were issued during that lag time, Sokoff said.
It’s also possible if you received a ticket earlier this semester and was unsure of why, that it had to do with a glitch in the software that did not recognize the distinction in Missouri license plates between “zeros” and “O’s” and “ones” and “I’s.” That glitch has been fixed.
Finally, a syncing issue meant quite a few tickets were issued all at once a few weeks in to the semester, rather than sent within a day of issue.
If you feel you received a ticket in error at the beginning of the semester – or at any point – “just contact us,” Sokoff said. “A lot can be resolved with a phone call.”
The MU Office of Parking and Transportation Services can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-882-4568. The online parking portal, where you registered your license plate(s) over the summer, is also a robust resource, allowing you to see the vehicles you have registered, your permit, any citations, and a list of events that might affect the number of spots in your parking lot or garage on any given day. You can even pay or appeal your citation online.
A new scanning system
Foot traffic has decreased to the parking office with the new system, although emails and phone calls have increased, Sokoff said. Parking enforcement has gone from about a 55-student team down to 27. No students were let go – less were hired this fall.
Parking enforcement is now done in one of two ways. For large garages and parking lots, a two-student team drives through in one of the parking office’s Subarus. The vehicles each have two cameras on the roof (see photo, above) which scan license plates and check them against the database. A tablet computer in the vehicle sounds an alarm whenever the scanner detects a vehicle that doesn’t have permission to be in the lot or garage. The student will then do a physical check of the vehicle/license plate to make certain it is in fact a legitimate citation. The citation is then reviewed by full-time staff electronically and sent to the employee or student via their MU email account within 24 hours.
The plate scanners also take images with context of where the vehicle is parked and of the license plate and sends those images, as well as a GPS pinpoint on a Google map, along with the citation.
For smaller parking lots, typically a student will be on foot with one of the tablets checking plates.““What we’ve attempted to do is bring the technology into the 21st Century,” Sokoff said. “Tech in parking is a hot industry. It’s now more streamlined and customer focused instead of labor intensive.””
―Michael Sokoff, MU director of parking and transportation services
If a vehicle is not registered in the system, a citation is written but not sent, Sokoff said. The citation is stored in the system under license plate information and, after the third citation, a notice is placed under the vehicle’s windshield wiper indicating the vehicle has been identified as a multiple violator and is eligible to be towed unless the citations are resolved.
The parking team’s next main task is to convert parking meters on campus to pay stations, using your license plate as your receipt, Sokoff said. He hopes to have a mobile app in place soon, too, that will text the customer when they are almost out of time on their parking spot and allow them to pay for more time electronically.
“What we’ve attempted to do is bring the technology into the 21st Century,” Sokoff said. “Tech in parking is a hot industry. It’s now more streamlined and customer focused instead of labor intensive.”