Where a local authority does not currently collect parking payments, the near future offers a number of options.
Pay and Display Machines
This method is tried and tested and understood by the public. It is relatively easy to enforce and presents the default choice. It requires notable installation costs for the associated street furniture and these require on-going maintenance. In most applications the machines acquire cash which presents risk on-street, incurs collection costs and requires measures to prevent leakage. The City of Westminster operates cashless payments for pay and display by credit and debit card only. For users, the major drawback is the requirement to have appropriate change and requirement to pre-determine the length of stay.
In the commentary that follows, other options are typically compared to pay and display.
This system uses prepaid cards that are validated for the time and day of use by scratching away the hour, minute (to nearest 5), day, date and month from a printed card. Each voucher has a preset value that buys a given time for on-street parking. The time purchased for a voucher may vary in different zones (system in St Helier) or different denomination vouchers may be in use (Chichester).
The system has some significant cost-saving and revenue advantages for the authority:
- It negates the requirement to install or maintain payment machines; there is limited street furniture requirements or clutter;
- vouchers cost a few pence each to produce and are sold through local newsagents and garages on a commission basis. Cash handling is therefore undertaken by these agents as part of their standard retail operation; the authority sells the vouchers in bulk and on account to these agents which reduces opportunities for leakage.
- The process presents a position of being able to earn the revenue in advance and there is inevitable value that is not redeemed by users through vouchers being lost or taken out of the area.
- Vouchers are generally unattractive to thieves as they are not readily traded and when in the hands of the public are distributed in users’ vehicles such that (unlike payment machines) there is no concentration of value.
- Investment in a voucher system is non-committal
- Tariff changes can be effected remotely through a simple change in wholesale rate and publication of future charge.
There are some drawbacks
- Fraudulent production may present a risk.
- The system presents an initial barrier to use for visitors. However the overwhelming number of parking transactions within most towns will be by frequent and local users. The limited up take of voucher systems are perhaps due more to it being unfamiliar in the UK and perceived to be old technology. Good practice is for the parking signs to inform users the name and address of the nearest outlet selling the vouchers (shown in image in Chichester).
- The scratching of the vouchers is somewhat tiresome for users, and having the right number or mix of denominations may prove problematic.
- Like pay and display, the voucher method is restricted in that it relies on users to declare in advance the length of their parking stay.
Pay on Foot
The prevalence of pay on foot systems in large retail car parks demonstrates the popularity and commercial advantage that this method affords over pre-determined payment systems. It is geared towards off street car parks with barrier control, with an entry ticket being validated for use as the entry ticket once the stay is paid for at a central pay-station. The major advantage for users, and why it is popular in shopping mall car parks, is that there is no requirement to pre-determine length of stay.
Pay by Phone
A common approach in many major cities is the emergence of pay by phone accounts for parking. This includes payment by apps on mobile devices (which now make up a greater share of use). Users are billed against a credit or debit card account. A third party operator provides the service for a limited fee which may be absorbed by the operator or passed onto users. Vehicle parking time is purchased against the Vehicle Registration Mark which is passed to the enforcement team. The system removes cash and by creating a back-office accounting process enables the tariff charged to use tariffs unbounded by the denomination of coinage or user familiarity. Tariffs may be set as fractional pence per minute if required, can be differentiated by time of day and location and can readily be linked in to a process of reward and rebates based on account holders’ activity or other specifications (such as being registered as a resident in the area).
The initial account set-up is a barrier to users and there may be some initial resistence from users to switch to the system.
Compared to pay and display, pay by phone/app offers significant user advantages. It addresses the pre-determination difficulty for those uncertain of their duration of stay; the operator will send text messages to users reminding them when their paid duration is due to end and, subject to the restrictions in force, offer time extensions to be purchased.
In 2006 cash was the only means of payment for on-street parking in Westminster. A pay by phone pilot was initiated in October 2006 in 2 zones as a complimentary payment method and from October the following year rolled out across the city. Chip & PIN Pay & Display was also introduced as the cash meters were progressively removed. By May 2009 all means of paying cash for parking had been removed. By July 2011, 89% of all parking transactions were being made by phone. However the removal of the cash option did present some difficulties for specific users requiring the introduction of parking cards (or vouchers as used elsewhere in this note). (Fitsall, The Intelligent Kerbside, 2012).
Despite the widespread availability of pay by phone in other areas it can remain limited in its appeal. Based on a survey in a number of major UK cities of over 2000 adults, only 6% reported using phone or text services to pay for parking (Xerox, 2015).
Within Westminster users are also presented with the epay option which enables them to use cash at local shops. Once parked in any paid-for bay, users go to the nearest epay point retailer. They provide the retailer with the 4 digit location code of their parking bay, their vehicle registration number and the appropriate cash payment. ( Parking for Visitors, 2015) The retailer effectively provides the media interface otherwise afforded by the phone account.
Back office accounting
The attractiveness for user and operator of pay by phone is the back-office account. The electronic payment processing offers tariff and charging flexibility and for users removes the need to handle what are typically small cash values. The pay by phone process does however retain a requirement for the user to make the call or visit to the mobile app site and undergo progressive pre-determined payments for the stays made.
Emerging technologies are proving the use of smart apps to enable a passive charging system based on mobile devices. Applications exist whereby owners of mobile devices (iphone, Windows phone, Android or Blackberry) can register their vehicle and payment account with third party providers and then park, select the parking location code (using the zone, a signed number at the parking spot or a map on-screen) and commence their parking. Once they have returned to the vehicle, the “Stop” button is pressed. Users can read their parking history on-line and are billed monthly. The ParkMobile brand and operation is present in over 500 cities worldwide including Birmingham and Leeds (ParkMobile, 2015). A similar offer is provided by Ring Go who are operating in over 160 UK towns and cities (Ring Go, 2015).
The emerging evidence is that a seamless parking experience is imminent. Pre-booked parking is also available and becoming more prevalent beyond the airport. At underground parking locations such as Upper Street Car Park in Islington, cars that have been pre-booked and paid for their parking via the website are recognised using ANPR and granted access through the barrier. For those parking within the booked period, there is no further verification or payment, and departure is similarly controlled by ANPR.
The retail vision currently sees that parking will become one component in the overall integrated and personalised shopping trip. Festival Place retail centre in Basingstoke have launched the “Festival Rewards” app. For those customers that sign up and input car registration and other personal details there is an ambition to enable parking to be booked in advance, a personal greeting on entry to the car park, remote billing with payment done back office from account, internal direction finding to a parking spot inside the car park, a mobile app fed with offers and information while in the centre based on location and activity and the potential for parking fees to be reduced by incentives and purchases. Goods may be delivered to the car or a collection point with parking payment acknowledged and communicated on departure and on-going correspondence and loyalty points/rewards for parking and shopping at that centre between visits (Murphy, 2015). The Bullring and Mailbox are pursuing similar approaches.
Various manufacturers are already using and developing installed navigation and communication technology. In the near term we can expect to see widespread use of the dashboard as the portal for parking. Navigation and parking information are being combined to lead drivers directly to an available parking spot. (ParkMobile, 2015).
Notwithstanding the limited attention given to Variable Message Signs (or other knowledge regarding car park occupancy) by drivers that queue, we can see the physical installation of any device providing information on parking availability to be superfluous within the next 5 – 10 years.
Recent European legislation (April 2015) requires all new cars and light goods vehicles from 1st March 2018 to have an in-vehicle eCall system installed (EU Regulation No. 2015/758). While the eCall system is designed for emergency use the on-board device will continuously track the location of the vehicle via GPS and provide the platform for other utilities. Thus all new cars will come with the capability to support systems linking vehicle location and operation with a parking (and toll) charge account. Despite the potential for users not to subscribe, the advantages to users that may be offered by automated navigation, occupancy and billing (by recording the specific length of time stopped in a charging location and providing warning where parking is not permitted) will likely see significant uptake of such services. This in turn will improve the richness of the data available to those managing and optimising the choice sets offered to individual users.
There are thus a number of options emerging that will enable users to progressively link location or parking activity to an account for payment that will be passive and invisible to the user in the near future. For more users it will become common for parking charges to be consolidated and reported by way of a monthly invoice, with payment debited directly from an associated source account. BMW are one of a number of car manufacturers who envisage the in-car navigation process to include parking location selection and payment as an automated process for the user. This will make paying for parking a background activity, reducing the inconvenience of the transaction. Based on attitudes to other remotely collected charges, it is also likely that it will reduce the impact of the payment by not only separating the action from the cost, but by consolidating the individual costs into one larger electronic monthly payment. (Thaler, 1999).
Thus the key conclusion is that on-street furniture and more traditional methods of paying for parking at the point of use could to a significant degree diminish in importance over the next five years. This may have a bearing on the life expectancy of any on-street equipment and the density of deployment, or indeed any decision regarding which payment mechanisms to introduce.
Enforcement & Revenue Protection
The principal consideration for enforcement is that it should be proportionate and sufficient. The emerging trends see a move away from civil enforcement officers undertaking a punitive role to job titles and descriptions that are designated to assist users find parking and provide a valuable way-finding service. Evidence from San Francisco, Westminster and Auckland has supported the position that as time restrictions are removed for on-street parking, despite potentially the cost of parking increasing, compliance has improved. This supports the position that a significant number of infringements are not a result of an intention to breach the parking rules, but due to user requirements being unsatisfied by the prevailing rules or payment methods (especially through overstaying a pre-determined estimation of stay).
Westminster saw a 50% increase in casual parking revenues from 2006/07 to 2011/12 accompanied by a reduction in the number of Penalty Charge Notices issued. This is ascribed to the easier payment methods provided by phone over finding sufficient cash for meters and the extended stay periods offered in some locations. (Fitsall, The Intelligent Kerbside, 2012).
In advance of the ubiquitous inclusion of GPS capabilities within new vehicles, there are other more immediate options being trialled using RFID that open up new services for subscribing users.
Over the longer term, linking the increased prevalence of locational accuracy of a vehicle will offer automated compliance in most cases and may ease the type and scale of enforcement required. Time restrictions and payment limits for individual events will be systemic and not require continuous enforcement; if a charge is being collected the system will be assumed to be making accurate and correct charges. Enforcement will move to addressing individual errors with the system or users that dis-engage from the automation to avoid charging.