London Finds Surprising Uses for Parking Data

The borough of Islington deploys business intelligence to bolster parking enforcement, then discovers more expansive functions.

by / March 1, 2012
Goswell Road in Islington. Photo courtesy of Nick Sarebi / Flickr CC

In the London borough of Islington, parking enforcement officers patrol a 12-square-mile area that’s home to more than 180,000 people. As one might expect in a metropolitan area, the borough is composed of a compact network of roads, businesses and homes.

“For every square mile, there’s about 18 miles of road,” said John Galsworthy, head of Parking and Business Service, which oversees parking enforcement and permitting in the borough and supports business and financial services for the larger Public Realm division. “There are lots of high-rise properties and things like that, so you’ve got lots of people living on small footprints of land.”

Even though only one out of every two residents owns a car, commuters bring thousands more cars to the area. Galsworthy estimates his organization issues about 250,000 parking tickets and upward of 40,000 permits annually.

Like many U.S. local government operations, UK governments are also being pushed to reduce costs, leaving Galsworthy with the challenge of effectively carrying out operations without a lot of expenditure. To gain greater insight into its operations, Parking and Business Service sought an analytics tool to gain greater insight into the division’s operations. But since deploying an embedded business intelligence (BI) solution last summer from LogiXML called Logi Info, the organization has found that it can use the system for more, and has been using it to query and connect underlying data.

The borough already had some BI tools in place, but because they were managed on an enterprise level, Galsworthy said it was difficult and expensive for him to get what he needed from them. So the division sought a BI tool that it had more direct control over. Galsworthy said LogiXML’s architecture and pricing model made it a good fit because the organization didn’t have a lot of money to invest in development and licensing.

Logi Info is installed on an organization’s servers, and users access the system via the Internet. So rather than charging a user-based license fee, the company’s pricing model is based on the number and size of the servers on which it is installed, said David Abramson, director of product management for LogiXML. “With someone like the borough of Islington, they can serve all of their people in the field as well as all of their internal resources with the licensing structure that makes sense to reach all of those people,” said Abramson.

Another cost advantage, Galsworthy said, is that the system is easy to deploy and integrate with existing systems, so the borough also didn’t have to spend a lot on development.

Galsworthy said more than 400 employees currently use the system, including civil enforcement officers on the street.

Better Intelligence

The division has used its new reporting capabilities to identify areas where resources were going to waste. For instance, the analytics showed that compliance rates were much higher in some areas of the borough than others, and the division was able to reduce the number of enforcement officers in those areas.

“I used to have 170 [workers] on the street,” said Galsworthy. “I’m now down to 135.” Islington’s civil enforcement officers are under contract from a third party, so the enforcement officers that are no longer needed in Islington are distributed into other contracts. Galsworthy also said that the increased reporting capabilities allowed the borough to consolidate the two layers of management it had in the borough and under the third-party contract.

The division also reduced administrative costs related to canceled tickets — where ticket recipients successfully appeal — by running reports that showed cancellation rates. “You start to find streets that have high volumes of tickets that were issued and then canceled for some reason,” said Galsworthy. The division can then investigate the reason for the high cancelation rate and fix the problem, for instance, by making signage more visible.

Connecting Data

While the analytics have saved the city a significant amount of money, the division also uses the system to run queries of underlying data and make connections between data in various databases and business systems.

“What we’ve managed to do because of the way Logi’s infrastructure works, we’ve been able to use a BI tool to replace part of the business system and build almost a Web services-type approach for very simple queries for people out on the street,” said Galsworthy. For instance, an officer may query the system for a license plate number and find that the vehicle has numerous unpaid tickets. “He can then straight away get the tow truck around,” Galsworthy said.

The division is also using the system to address tickets that were lost in the system, which is important because the borough only has about six months to collect the fines before it has to give up on them. “There were lots of tickets in the system that were just getting lost or stuck,” Galsworthy said. “They couldn’t progress because there was missing information, and this allowed us to identify those and look for information in the system to see if we could move them on.”

The borough has gained an additional half million pounds this year since implementing the system, according to Galsworthy, and has seen about 450,000 pounds in cost-savings.

Business Functions

The division is also looking at using the new application’s processing capabilities to facilitate some business functions. Typically, he said, if he wanted to build new functions into the division’s business systems, it would require a lot of costly development, but many of the functions he needs can be set up in the BI program.

According to Abramson, Logi Info supports a “bidirectional” model. So rather than simply sifting through data and providing meaningful reports, the system lets users investigate underlying data stores and write back to those systems or trigger alerts. “[It] not only allows for data consumption, but also allows for our users to actually take action on the data directly from those reports and dashboards.”

Galsworthy said the division hasn’t yet explored all the possibilities, but it is using the system to do some job tracking for assets and infrastructure projects and plans to expand its use to other activities in the Public Realm division, such as waste management.

Most of the division’s business relates to outdoor location and resource deployment, said Galsworthy, so it makes sense that the tools could support those functions. “For my on-street resources, they’re all GPS tracked and with handheld computers -- and all the systems are real-time. So I know what everyone in real-time is doing,” he said. “All that can be brought back into central reports.”

The borough has also integrated its analytics with Google Earth mapping applications, which allows it to spatially visualized trends and activities. “Obviously when they’re talking about parking enforcement as well as people on the ground, the efficiency of working with maps and other GPS locator types of technologies and tools is really great for them,” said Abramson, “because they can see things happening on streets.”

With the demands being placed on today’s governments, Galsworthy said it’s important for agencies to have these kinds of tools at the operational level. He said it’s more typical for public-sector organizations to have BI systems at the enterprise level that don’t offer detailed information to the “front line” of business services, but Galsworthy sees such frontline tools as necessary to ensuring effective service delivery. “These kind of systems, they just demonstrate effectiveness, efficiency and transparency, which are quite important things in public-sector world.”

Emily Montandon Staff Writer/Copy Editor