Fit for the future: Bath partners with Chipside to digitise city parking
Bath City Council’s partnership with digital permitting experts Chipside has helped establish the city as one of Britain’s most innovative and forward-thinking providers of parking.
When Chris Major moved to the city in 2011 to manage transport and parking at Bath and North East Somerset Council, he had to address significant parking and traffic problems. Underwhelmed by the city’s first involvement with a semi-electronic parking provider, Chris issued a tender for a new digital system that could reflect the needs of Bath’s residents
One solution. One system
Before finding and enlisting the help of Chipside in 2013, Bath City Council had been managing the city’s increasing visitor traffic through a mixture of paper and digital solutions.
“It was a patchy system and data was poor,” comments Chris. “There was a real need to improve the dataset as a whole, innovate and enable our residents to pay for parking permits on a day-to-day basis – rather than a flat, historic, daily issue”.
Many local councils and authorities issue city residents with 100-day parking passes, but Bath City Council wanted to deliver a far more flexible and user-friendly parking solution.
“We were really pleased when Chipside came forward and gave us first access to MiPermit,” continues Chris. “Most local authorities charge their residents per day for parking – enabling them to bulk buy days in advance. However, the MiPermit app gives our residents the ability to purchase parking by the hour. It gave us the parking flexibility we knew we needed in the city”.
MiPermit now provides Bath Council with cashless parking, virtual permits, electronic visitors hours and Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) case management – in one single platform. With the council’s core transport and parking systems now connected, there is no need for team members to log into multiple systems to action different tasks.
Flexible and forward thinking
Bath City Council now issues in the region of 7000 resident permits and almost 600,000 visitor hours each year – all of which are managed digitally through MiPermit. In addition, 25% of Bath’s public car park transactions are now made through the MiPermit app – representing a value of almost £2.5 million a year.
“Nobody comes into the city just to park. They all come in for various other reasons and it should be as painless as possible,” comments Chris. “ MiPermit’s solution makes it as painless as it could possibly be”.
Residents can now buy up to 1000 parking hours per year to give to visitors. They simply enter a family or friend’s car registration details into the app and allocate a select number of hours for parking. In 2018, Chipside added discounted pay and display codes to MiPermit for residents. As part of Bath City Council’s ‘Residents First’ promotion, all residents are entitled to 10% discount on the standard parking fee.
“It is a very robust platform and it works. We even have access to a call centre with Chipside so users can talk to people if they really need to,” adds Chris. “That being said, we have had less than a dozen complaints about people not being able to use the system in the seven years it has been in place.”
“That’s the beauty of it, when something works and works well – you just do not hear about it!”
A partner in innovation
As a fast moving city working with a number of new permitting solutions, Chris was clear that a “one and done” partnership would never have worked; “We see it happen all the time when systems go out of date and you are left playing catch up,” Chris continues. “It was really important to us that Chipside was able to innovate and its solution could be reflective of where we are going in the long term”.
Exclusively for Bath, Chipside has developed a bespoke trades person permit. A validated tradesperson can use city’s cashless pay meters with a restricted code that allows them to park for longer to finish jobs in the city. In 2016 Chipside also delivered a bespoke coach parking system for Bath’s Christmas market - enabling coach drivers to book drop off and pick up times online.
“MiPermit has completely taken our resource out of the booking process,” comments Chris. “We have been able to re-invest that revenue back into managing the parking better on the ground and to focus on delivering the most efficient experience for drivers and visitors to the market”.
In 2018, Chipside also created unique codes for council staff parking to reduce the administration associated with reclaiming parking costs, and to ensure council workers can focus on doing their jobs in the city with limited parking stresses.
“We just keep innovating and keep rolling forward with Chipside. As soon as we are done with one thing, we start thinking of the next one!” says Chris.
Reinvestment for the future
With Chipside’s digital parking and permit solutions now successfully rolled out in the city, Bath City Council has been able to refocus key resources.
“If you did a pure comparison between digital permits and the office time it takes to send out a piece of paper and manage the traditional system - the returns are absolutely phenomenal,” says Chris. “Working with Chipside has allowed us to continue to deliver the best value for the council across our parking estate. This was the key win for us: improving the reputation of the parking service and responding to the needs of people coming in and out of the city”.
“I just cannot understand why you would not be using this,” Chris adds. “Your users will appreciate it, your authority will appreciate it because of the return, and the simplicity of MiPermit makes it a no brainer”.