What We Learned In 2023: Lessons In Parking and Mobility Transformation 


By Justin Goodwin

My Buddy Charles

Adjusting an entire city’s parking infrastructure is not as simple as flipping a switch. In 2022, the Division of Mobility and Parking Services transformed the curbs of Columbus, replacing 3,000 meters with 150 multi-space kiosks, installing nearly 5,000 signs and increasing on-street paid parking spaces from 4,000 to 13,000 through the expansion of mobile payment.

Here’s what we learned:

A project this large requires strategic planning and customization.

We implemented several parking management plans, informed by industry best practices and robust public engagement. By rolling out customized plans for each Columbus neighborhood, we were able to improve turnover, introduce virtual permitting and optimize rates.

Purposeful public outreach is key in driving adoption of a new system. 

We employed humor and relatability with the “My Buddy Charles” video series to educate the public about the new ways to pay. We supported organic messaging with targeted paid media in order to reach diverse audiences. The success of our advertising is evident in app adoption: In 2023, mobile payments accounted for 90% of revenue (3x more than 2020) and 86% of transactions (over 4x more than 2020), and we averaged over 22,000 new app users per month!

Modernized technology is as important for staff as it is for the public.

The transition from cumbersome, manual methods to a system streamlined by technology has been transformational for our staff. We’ve reduced maintenance costs and downtime with new kiosks, LPR and mobile handhelds. We’ve improved customer service by providing alternatives to in-person visits for payments, permits and appeals. Across the board, our staff are embracing the ever-changing environment and improved customer experience. And we’re continuing to innovate — piloting dynamic loading zones, developing geofencing parking for e-scooters and leveraging new sources of data to drive decision-making.

Our holistic approach to mobility and parking, combined with our acute focus on the customer experience, has drastically altered the public’s perception of our operation as an approachable go-to for all things curbside.

Our team is thrilled to welcome other industry leaders to Columbus in June for the IPMI Parking & Mobility Conference & Expo. We look forward to connecting and collaborating with the best and brightest minds in the field!

Justin Goodwin is the Mobility & Parking Division Administrator for the City of Columbus. He can be reached at JMGoodwin@columbus.gov.