Dutch local government is a lot like the movies. It makes you laugh, cry, scream, hold your breath, yawn. I live in Rotterdam, and have seen a lot of movies from the City recently. I applied for a car parking permit, building permit and a bicycle parking permit. I’ll tell you about the parking permit to show where the analogy fits. A normal person states, it`s easy to decide if you are entitled to a parking permit or not. I mean, the facts are simple. You live in a certain parking area or not and the maximum permits available for that address are issued. And you drive a car under your name or not (with a small portion of complexity for lease cars) That`s as complex as it gets right? Wrong. There is complexity added to the picture by the city of Rotterdam where it comes to parking not visible or clear for the citizens.
It wasn`t possible for me to easily move within the area of Rotterdam on my current permit. I first had to cancel my old one (Form 1), and then apply for a new one (Form 2). Here the fun starts. You can only apply when you live in your new home, but when you start living there, you start parking obviously. But the appliance process for a new permit takes a month. Because the maximum of parking permits are issued out you are put on a waiting list. But I heard that after that month. I wasn`t happy when i received that message. Filed a complaint, because of the late warning plus the fact that there where an absurd number of empty parking spots in my area.
The response was that Rotterdam was implementing a new system, but on top of that, the maximum number of permits were really issued, she said. She emphasized, and this was really funny, that if someone moves (we live in the heart of Rotterdam, shopping frenzy central) they would cancel their permit, a person doesn`t pay for the gym when he or she doesn’t go either right? My response was that 9 euro per month is a pretty cheap permanent parking place in the centre of a big city.
The solution is simple and elegant. Copy the movie theatre system. Let people apply themselves online for a parking permit. They can see online which spaces are available and pick one. The city knows who you are and where you live through the local government base administration of citizens automatically, check. When the area is full, it`s full. check. And the city can check the license plate automatically. See to it that when somebody moves, the permit is being withdrawn (you are being escorted out of the theatre). And cost effective, definitely! I had no less than fifteen interactions with five employees of the city, and the parking permit costs about 9 euros per month! In any business context that would mean bankruptcy. The movie theatre system would improve customer satisfaction, and reduce costs. Nice business case right?
City of Rotterdam, for inspiration, please check: http://ohmygov.com/blogs/general_news/archive/2009/12/31/5-cool-new-apps…. And please read ‘What would Google do’!
In my view, the core messages here are transparency, start communicating with citizens, and letting go of control, City of Rotterdam, we citizens can handle it.