The evolution of parking payment


PayByPhone’s UK CEO, Jonny Combe, looks at the evolution of parking technology.

Over recent years, the demand from an increasingly tech-savvy public has forced private parking operators and local authorities to consider cashless payment systems.

A decade ago, cash was still king and pay-and-display machines had not yet faced competition from websites, apps or Interactive Voice Response (IVR) phone systems. The introduction of these technological developments has transformed the way parking is paid for.


A shift in behaviour

It has been more than sixty years since the introduction of the first parking meter in Britain in 1958. For fifty of those years, coin-operated pay-and-display parking dominated the market.

The shift in consumer attitudes around cash, with debit cards gaining popularity and mobile phones becoming more affordable and smarter, marked a significant milestone in the parking evolution.

The parking sector reacted to the change in consumer behaviour by reconfiguring parking terminals to accept card and contactless payments, and to implement IVR systems to allow card payments over the phone.

Drivers are not just adapting quickly to new technologies, but they are actually expecting them to be readily available, which is a key factor in the evolution of cashless parking.

Apps in focus

The availability of highly-functional and intuitive apps allows drivers them to identify parking locations quickly and painlessly, and to pay for their sessions with the swipe of a screen.

PayByPhone was an exclusively phone-based service. When we introduced a website service that was accessible on a phone in 2011, this was still a ground-breaking concept. Today, 80% of drivers, who use PayByPhone, rely on the app to pay for parking. We processed 28.3 million transactions in the UK last year, which was up from 25 million in 2017, and much of that we can attribute to the fact that more than half of all local authorities are offering cashless technology.

The cashless movement

For the local authorities, cashless parking saves taxpayers’ money on maintaining and upgrading pay-and-display machines, it reduces vandalism and is more environmentally-friendly, as there are no vehicles on the road collecting cash from the machines.

The councils also gain insight into consumer behaviour through data collection, and this can be used to influence parking policies and high street behaviours.

What’s next

As the parking payment evolution continues, consumers will expect a faster and more seamless experience. For parking operators, features such as eligibility-based parking will provide the tools to segment customers and to offer bespoke parking conditions.

Parking technology, as a mobility service, is intrinsically linked to the development of connected cars and connected cities, and the evolution will continue to pick up speed. As real-time parking availability and parking route information become widely available this year, drivers will hopefully find that their car journeys are becoming more enjoyable and hassle-free.

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