Two key issues are driving the move to cashless parking. Fewer and fewer consumers carry coins, so finding the right change for parking is an irritation. Replacing machines with ‘chip-and-pin’ machines is costly, and the added complexity means they more frequently need repairs. Here, Harry Clarke, commercial director of Cobalt Telephone Technologies, highlights the solution increasingly favoured by operators – cashless parking via mobile phone, using credit or debit cards as payment, as an adjunct to pay and display parking.
There are several benefits to operators from introducing phone parking.
• Enables operators to collect payments even when machines are vandalized or broken;
• Shifts a proportion of cash collection, processing and banking costs, to digital payments and;
• Reduces lost revenues due to theft, fraud and counterfeit coins.
Cashless parking has been offered for several years, with each operator using different methods to assist motorists. RingGo, for instance, uses a synthesized intelligence system to collect user details in around two minutes – combining voice and keypad entry to speed up the process and maintain data security. Others employ call handling centers to achieve similar results.
Once registered, the time taken to pay for parking is under a minute – usually less than that needed to purchase a ticket. Extra benefits, such as the ability to ‘top up’ parking time wherever you are, add to the appeal over standard ‘machine’ parking.
Parking via text is offered by some suppliers – enabling users to pay and park using SMS. The downsides to this are the insecurity of texting compared with encrypted voice communication and the fact that text messages can experience mobile network delays – meaning that penalty charge notices may be administered erroneously.
Security of data
As with most non-cash payments, security of data is a potential issue, especially given the need to safely handle credit and debit card information. Most service providers cover this by ensuring their service complies with basic Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards.
For maximum security, though, PCI Level 1 (the highest standard recognized by Visa and Mastercard) is recommended – to ensure all procedures and processes have been tested and audited. Achieving this accreditation is a major undertaking for any supplier.
Sophisticated operators are already extending phone parking in new directions.
• ANPR: Some are linking digital payments with automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) – reducing the need for human intervention in enforcement and cutting appeals against penalty charges dramatically.
• Carbon-Metered Parking: Others, such as the London Borough of Richmond, are seeking to tackle environmental emissions by introducing carbon-metered parking – where tariffs are automatically linked to the CO2 properties of the vehicle parking there. Using phone parking for this offers a superior service, as tariffs, payments and enforcement are automatically included, without requiring motorists to prepay.
• Charging for motorcycle parking: Normally considered infeasible, charging for motorcycles is possible using phone parking. Many councils are likely to follow the City of Westminster’s introduction of this facility.
In an age in which coins are used less and less – and vandalism and theft from machines is an increasing headache for operators – the future of cashless parking looks assured. In many established car parks, more motorists pay cashlessly than pay with coins – so it’s only a question of time when the wholesale removal of machines occurs.
Harry Clarke is commercial director for Cobalt Telephone Technologies, a UK company that has designed, developed and now operates the RingGo service at over 800 locations across the UK. For more information, log on to www.RingGo.co.uk
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