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Calgary Parking Authority struggling with 10% drop in customer satisfaction

Safety, security and price are factors behind a recent troubling decline in the Calgary Parking Authority’s (CPA) overall customer satisfaction, after survey numbers were released last month.

The CPA released a summary of their report to the community in May, and while satisfaction numbers are still relatively high, they’ve stumbled since 2015. The civic parking overseer saw a 10 per cent drop in customer satisfaction between 2015 and 2017, from 97 per cent to 87 per cent.

In addition, when responding to the statement, “I feel safer parking in a Calgary Parking Authority parkade/parking lot than I do parking in other parking companies’ facilities,” 70 per cent agreed, compared with 80 per cent in 2015.

Jennifer Whitaker with the CPA said they met with other stakeholders, including the Calgary Police Service and the Calgary Downtown Association, and they’ve already taken action to stop the decline.

“Last summer it became very apparent we needed to do something about it,” Whitaker said.

They worked with area businesses and analyzed the traffic of brick and mortar parkades and when they were quiet at night, they locked down the locations and swept the buildings for people.  Whitaker said they had people driving in to work in the early morning and having run-ins with people taking shelter in the stairwells.

She said that’s already had the highest impact on number of complaints. And it’s freed up the time of parking officers to patrol surface lots.

But, in addition, the CPA has hired an outside firm to manage the security operations in their parkades. Staff were dealing with increasingly unsafe working condition, Whitaker said.

“We asked ourselves: Did (officers) have the training to deal with these situations – no. Perhaps we need to protect our staff and realize there are people who do this for a profession,” she said.

Safety hasn’t really been an issue for regular downtown parker, Colleen Pound. She said she uses all of the big parkades in the downtown and finds them well-lit, quiet and hasn’t had any troubling encounters. Pound said she hasn’t really heard others speak of anything like that either and wonders if the complaints come from people who aren’t regular downtown parkers.

And price didn’t make her flinch too much, either.

“I think people are more conscious of the price, which is a different question than if it’s high,” she said, noting that having the ParkPlus option to essentially pay by the minute, the costs don’t seem to pile up.

For some, like Colleen Pound, the ParkPlus system has allowed them to better manage Calgary parking costs. JENNIFER FRIESEN / For LiveWire Calgary

Pound’s issue, however, is with how the CPA handles parking tickets. And while she admits she’s fairly earned her fair share of citations, dealing with the parking operation when a ticket isn’t warranted is like pulling teeth.

“How they handle parking tickets is an abomination,” Pound said.

“I have a stack of parking tickets where I can pull up the record that shows that I parked there and that I paid for the time.”

She said there’s a problem in the system if people are paying, but still being issued a ticket.

The Calgary Downtown Association’s interim Executive Director Brad Krizan said the feedback they’ve received on a consistent basis is around pricing and availability for people coming to the downtown.

“How do we make it easier for people to come downtown and find available parking at a reasonable cost and make that something that’s not a barrier for them,” Krizan said.

On the security side, he said public safety is always going to be an issue, not just in parkades. But the sense of security is heightened when people are in places with little activity.

“Because we’ve got much higher downtown office vacancy, which means there are fewer employed workers in the downtown core, which translates to less activity – that just heightens the ability for opportunism by people that want to commit certain types of crimes at whatever times of the day, Krizan said.

To address price, Whitaker said they’re actively tracking the available stock in certain parkades and are offering promotions to stimulate traffic. And with the rise in office vacancy they’ve seen lengthy waiting lists for prime parking spots dwindle to nothing.

While the pricing and security measures they’ve taken are in full swing, they’ve only received anecdotal evidence they’re working.

Results from the next satisfaction survey won’t be done for some time.

In 2017, CPA’s customer satisfaction survey was conducted online in late June and early July 2017. A total of 2,738 ParkPlus cell phone account holders and 448 monthly contract holders completed the online survey.