The complex and exacting procedure for producing, recording and updating traffic orders is a challenge for many Local Authorities but is a central process in all effective parking enforcement. Under statutory guidance all traffic signs and road markings must match their respective traffic orders in every detail and failure to do so can result in a large number of Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) having to be refunded.
Difficulties in producing traffic orders can arise both in developing a set of base information that is fit for purpose and then in maintaining and updating this position. However, technology can help. GIS software, such as ParkMap, is the industry standard for making and recording traffic orders and if used correctly can make the process of producing and managing traffic orders more timely and cost-effective.
ParkMap is an electronic computer-based filing system, or database, for storing traffic order data and displaying the traffic restrictions on a map of the local authority area. It allows for detailed, clear and concise visualisations of traffic order data and has many advantages:
- Fast and exact access to information
- Clear historical audit trail of traffic orders
- Indexation by location, restriction type, reference or content
- Improved ease and standardisation for making traffic orders and performing consolidations
- Can be used to create Map Based Schedules – Many local authorities are now using map-based schedules in place of the traditional text schedules. This visual approach is perceived to be easier and quicker to understand both for parking staff using the traffic orders and the general public.
It is, however, an exacting tool requiring time, knowledge and standardised procedures to implement the systems and to maintain an acceptable quality of output. Many local authorities have ParkMap but often do not use it correctly. Here are a number of methods to ensure the system is being used to its full potential:
Communication and joint working
Generally, a number of different departments within a local authority are affected by traffic orders. Traffic, Highways and Parking departments are often all involved in the management of parking regulations and good communication between all departments is key. The parking department tends to be the eyes and ears of the local authority on-street and procedures should be put in place so that both Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs) and Notice Processing staff can notify the appropriate member of staff of any irregularities of signs and lines. Ensuring that the procedures are in place to rectify these issues immediately ensures that the ParkMap instance correctly represents what is on-street.
It is important to regularly check that the data inputted into ParkMap is up to date. As the ParkMap instance is used to create traffic orders, it is extremely important that it matches what is actually on-street. As ParkMap provides a visual representation of your traffic orders which means that the surveyor can easily walk the street and eye-match the traffic orders with the signs and lines that are actually there. This saves time and ensures a cost-effective method of surveying.
Configuration and Development
It is important to ensure that the ParkMap software is kept up to date. Buchanan’s Computing release ParkMap updates on a regular basis and these updates often include new features that aid the traffic order management process. It is important that the updates are managed properly and that all members of staff who use the ParkMap system are kept informed about them. The ParkMap system is also needs to be looked at as an evolving tool. It is important that the system is maintained by a trained individual who can implement new functions if necessary. This could include adding new data fields to the system to meet the individual needs of the local authority.
The management of your traffic orders using ParkMap does involve a number of resources. It is also important that the team members charged with managing the system are experienced and sufficiently trained to effectively keep it up to date. The accurate inputting of data into the system is fundamental to ensuring that traffic orders match what is on street and it is extremely important that this task is not taken lightly. Inaccurate inputting can be a disaster for a local authority so this task should be taken on by a trained and skilled individual.
If the council is short on resources the management of the ParkMap system can be contracted out to an experienced consultant who can provide a ParkMap bureau service. This involves the consultant updating their ParkMap system with the council’s new or amended traffic orders to ensure that it is always up to date.