The city has contracted with two parking technology companies - Symbol Technologies, Inc. and Paylock Incorporated - to use "radio frequency identification" (RFID) technology to manage its on-street residential parking program.
Symbol has embedded RFID tags directly into the city's parking permits. Each of the tags contains an identification number that is stored in a permit database at the HPU's office. That database holds the information on the vehicle and the type of permit issued, defining where a vehicle can legally park.
HPU officials believe the new technology will help speed enforcement, eliminate counterfeit permits, and ease the process of distributing new permits.
What is RFID? Using their hand-held mobile computers, parking enforcement officers can now use Paylock's software to read Symbol's passive RFID tagged parking permits. They no longer have to perform manual car-by-car visual inspections of permits.
According to HPU head John Corea, valid tags and associated information are synchronized to the mobile computers daily, allowing parking officers to validate if a car is allowed to park in a location at a particular time.
"Symbol's RFID solution allows officers to instantly authenticate if a permit is real and has improved the efficiency and effectiveness of our parking enforcement officials," Corea said. "The solution also enables us to easily account for each parking spot in the city, which helps us to best manage our parking program."
Anthony Bartolo, Symbol vice president and general manager, said that RFID technology will become an integral part of how Hoboken manages and plans its parking operations.
"Hoboken is quickly setting a new standard for parking management in cities that are plagued with similar challenges," Bartolo said.
Bart Blair, vice president of sales for Paylock Incorporated, said that Hoboken is the first city in the United States to use RFID technology in this capacity.
No more counterfeits As every Hoboken resident knows, parking in the city is a commodity. As with any commodity, there is the possibility of fraud, and over the past several years enforcement officers have noticed a rise in illegally obtained and counterfeit permits.
The RFID tags will not only tell if the permit is real and valid, but also will instantly confirm if it is on the right car, said Symbol officials.
A major problem, Corea said, is that some residents would have a single valid sticker but would then illegally rotate that sticker between multiple cars.
Corea said this technology will stop that practice because the enforcement officer will immediately be able to tell via the radio tag that the permit is on the right car and is real.
More efficient enforcement Also, parking enforcement officers have found it difficult to distinguish the permits of residents with resident parking privileges from those of city visitors with more limited privileges. Additionally, tinted windows, weather conditions, and inconsistent permit placements were all challenges in enforcement.
Now, according to Corea, the officers can drive down the street and in just seconds know exactly which cars have valid permits and which do not.
Booting changes The HPU also uses Paylock for booting vehicles. Using new technology, car owners may now call Paylock's 24-hour call center, use a credit card to pay their fine, and remotely release the boot.
Then a motorist can then drop off the "SmartBoot" at their convenience within 48 hours and incur no additional penalties. Before, they had to call for an HPU official to personally come out and take the boot off. The program costs the HPU nothing, but a $30 surcharge is added onto the violator's booting fee. The booting fee has risen from $100 to $130, with the HPU keeping $100.
Getting permits The RFID technology will also simplify the process of getting new permits. In past years residents have had to get a new permit mailed to their home each year. Residents who have been here more than a couple of years have seen the stickers pile up under their windshields.
"You're no longer going to see that kind of sticker graffiti," Corea said.
He explained that with the RFID tags, the same permit can be used for the life of the car. If the permit lapses, the HPU database will be updated and the city's enforcement officers will be able to instantly recognize that it is an inactive permit via their hand-held device.