Parking management systems: A history of electronic chalking | Part 1

The history of digital chalking | Part 1
February 8, 2013
Parking management systems: A history of electronic chalking | Part 1

It actually started in the mid 30’s in Oklahoma. Yes, it was the creation of the parking meter. The parking meter encouraged short term parking for the customers of local store merchants. Prior to that, on-street parking spaces were being used by employees for daily parking. There was no turnover of on-street spaces for a store merchant’s paying customers.  “Turnover” is the key to parking management. The term “turnover” means the number of times a parking space is used throughout the day. The more the space is turned over, the better utilization of that space. Today, turnover of on-street parking spaces is critical to the survival of merchant businesses located in a city core.

The time limit zone

woman electronically chalking

On street parking spaces in time delimited zones are another method of encouraging turnover of parking spaces typically regulated by posted signs allowing the parker to stay within a space for a set period of time. Governmental agencies use this method as a way of controlling on-street parking. Some cities use the time limit zone in lieu of the capital expenditure of buying parking meters.  Time restriction can vary from as little as a fifteen minutes for a loading zone to as high as four hours perhaps, near a movie theatre or large department store. Each agency sets up its restricted zone based on the particular need of that block in order to provide the maximum turnover for those spaces. For example, a bank will need a shorter time zone than a restaurant.

Traditional chalking

Overall, the effect of chalking on parking system management, and vehicle turnover, is a good one. However, many cities today still apply chalking in the same way as years past, by actually chalking the tire along the street with a piece of white chalk. The on-foot parking officer would mark a small line with white chalk on the rear tire at a particular spot. The plate number and the time of day would be recorded on paper.  Once the officer completed marking his/her beat of time limit zones, that footprint is retraced to begin what is known as ‘picking up your marks’. In order to determine whether or not to issue a parking ticket, the officer would verify a list of plate numbers that were past the allocated time and check for the chalk mark to confirm that the vehicle did not leave that space. An ordinance might typically state that a car move within a given time limit. This could mean that the car only has to move an inch. A loop hole such as this means that the vehicle owner would simply have to make sure the chalk mark on the road and the tire did not match.

eChalking using the handheld computer

The advent of mobile computers for ticket issuance provided a new method of time limit marking.  A new word appeared in the industry – eChalking or Electronic Chalking.  The handheld provided an input screen to record a plate number, location (address) and possibly additional fields. The system would automatically time and user stamp the eChalk. In most cities, the need to mark a tire was eliminated. The handheld also provided a new key component – an alert!  If a plate was re-entered, the handheld software would alert the officer that the vehicle was already eChalked, where, and when. The officer would make the decision based on current location if the vehicle was still within the time limit zone or whether to consider this eChalk as a new record.Some manual processes were argued to be quicker than the handheld but the benefits became evident once an digital record of electronic chalking's history was available to the parking enforcement officer and manager for reporting and, to the courts for adjudication. The officer’s word now included the availability of electronically captured information as a significant step forward in terms of adjudicative evidence and the reduction in the number of requests for adjudicative hearings.

Dive deeper into digital chalking

Related articles:Parking management systems: A history of eChalking | Part 2

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