If there’s one topic that gets the Medford community talking, it’s parking. You’ve likely seen the newer parking meters across the city and more recent parking restrictions in your neighborhood and wondered, “What gives?”
Well, the 4Squares team went straight to the source in our recent interview with Faye Morrison, the city’s new Parking Director, and learned about the newer technologies that - hopefully - will make our lives easier in more ways than one.
Welcome to Medford! As a newcomer to the Medford, what have you enjoyed most about connecting with the community?
Thank you! While parking can be a tough topic for a community, I’ve received a very warm welcome from Medford citizens thus far. 95% of the people our office has interacted with have been gracious, patient, and understanding. Some even tell me they’re happy we’re here, and we’ve received cookies and flowers, believe it or not. Of course, there are some folks who aren’t happy or have been a bit difficult, but those folks are the exception, not the rule. So, before we get into anything else, I want to give a big thank you to the community for being so welcoming and generous.
I’ve also enjoyed getting to know people in other departments and collaborating with DPW, who have been indispensable to me. We inherited some vehicles from the previous authority and Mike and Sal in the garage took the time to repair them and bring them up to snuff. And, of course, the Mayor’s Office has been incredibly supportive in providing the resources we need to get our job done.
Tell us about your role as Parking Manager and what led you to take on that role.
I was the Parking Director for the City of Newton and managed the transition to more automated parking. Change is hard and transitioning to a new system is one of the most difficult tasks a community will ever do, because everyone likes to say, “smooth transition.” And what I always push back with and say is, “What transition in your life is ever smooth?” For instance, when you're flying, and you hit the ground, that's the transition, there's nothing smooth about that!
The point is, there are always unforeseen circumstances that will create bumps in the road. Since I had already managed the transition for the City of Newton, I knew I had gained all the skills and talent to build a system that is intuitive, smart, and didn't require as much human intervention. Of course, there is still a human element, but overall, the technology supports the human element, it doesn’t eliminate it.
Our team includes five parking control specialists who patrol throughout the city. In our office, we have a total of four clerks, two who work full-time and two part-time, plus an abatement staffer (a senior who works part-time in exchange for $1500 tax bill credit).
Photo: The whole crew at the Parking Department, where Faye says that all efforts are team efforts! L-R: Omar R., Mike V., Marcell S, Octavius R., (kneeling) Raphael B., Eddy S., Faye Morrison and Justin W.
What are some of the initiatives you’re leading these days?
In terms of enforcement, we’ve partnered with Medford Police’s Traffic Division, which shares the responsibility of issuing parking tickets, but was still writing tickets by hand. MPD now has access to the same ticketing system Parking Enforcement does, which means increased accuracy – no more deciphering handwriting for instance – which also means fewer appeals.
We also want to be transparent to the community and our technology enables that. For instance, about 15 of the meters in Medford Square will have what we call time sensors, which allow for free 15-minute parking in front of restaurants and businesses. When you pull in, the sensor identifies that you’re there and the clock starts ticking. If you haven't pulled out, you're subject to a ticket. We want to keep those 15-minute spaces open regularly and allow more people to patronize businesses in the Square.
For metered parking, our parking control specialists can scan your license plate and see if you paid the meter, or in the case of permitted parking, whether you have a permit for the area. In the case of meters, we can also see what time you paid the meter, and we can also virtually chalk your tires.
When it comes to the point where a ticket is necessary, we also can take a photo of your car, which is available to you should you want to appeal the ticket. In some cities, those pictures are not made available to the public, but we’ve made the conscious choice to do so to ensure the community that we are not ticketing out of spite, but rather, to enforce the rules.
You’re also implementing technology that extends beyond parking. Tell us more about that.
While the city web page allows citizens to pay their water and sewer bills, property taxes, and excise taxes online, not everyone has internet access or an at-home desktop. With that in mind, we've recently installed a kiosk outside our office at City Hall that enables people to pay a ticket and water/sewer bills, excise taxes, and property tax bills.
The machine closes the language divide as well as the digital one by offering instruction and assistance in three languages, Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole. We hope this assists in providing additional customer service to a broader range of people in the community.
Best of all, you won't have to stand in line at any of these offices, and if you don't have a computer, you can come into the lobby and use the kiosk. Citizens and business owners can also buy on-street parking permits at the kiosk. Eventually, I'd like to see the kiosk enable purchases like pond passes, pool passes, and the like.
Above: City Hall, and the new bill pay kiosk.
If there was one idea you could share with the community about the role of the Parking Department and all these changes, what would it be?
We want the community to have access to their space, not limit it, and the technology we’ve introduced is meant to simplify processes, not be punitive.
We’re not working on a quota for how many citations we can issue. In fact, there are days when the control specialists may not write tickets, and that’s something we celebrate, because that means the regulations and infrastructure we’ve put in place is working.
In short, what I’d like to impress upon people is that we are here to make life better, not worse. More access, not less.
For a quick overview of new policies (and old) visit the Medford Parking Page.
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