Pay and Display Parking Machines To Be Phased Out

British councils are set to begin removing the pay and display machines that are seen in car parks and on high streets, forcing drivers to pay to park their car via smartphone apps instead.

With more than thirty smartphone apps used in parking areas around the country, the simple process of parking your car could be about to get far more complicated for those who aren’t particularly tech-savvy or for drivers who don’t own a smartphone.

While Harrow in London has already removed all of its machines, the boroughs of Enfield and Bromley are set to follow suit, with the devices being deactivated by April. Outside of the capital and one of the UK’s major seaside holiday destinations, the council in Brighton & Hove has agreed to kill all of their parking machines by the 31st of March.

A roadside sign indicating the location of a 'pay and display' parking machine

Is It Unfair To Remove Pay And Display Machines?

Mobile phone parking payment has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years as fewer people carry cash, despite the implementation of contactless card payment possibilities on many machines. But, the decision to completely remove the ‘old-school’ option of paying at a machine has been heavily criticised, with it being branded as ageist.

Older drivers may not have smartphones capable of downloading one of the many parking apps, which leaves them at a loss and could force them to simply move on and park somewhere else. Many of these app operators do offer a phoneline which can be used in absence of an app, but this still requires the user to stand out in public (if they can’t see one of the parking information signs from their car) with their mobile phone and bank card in hand – not comfortable for any driver, let alone the elderly or vulnerable.

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Why Are Pay And Display Parking Machines Being Removed?

The reasoning behind this decision is a painfully modern one – the current machines operate on 3G data networks, which are themselves being phased out. Keeping the pay and display machines running would mean switching them over to 4G networks (which are themselves already becoming outdated) but this would prove costly. In fact, Bromley Council has estimated the job to come it around £1 million!

The Downside To Parking Apps

Parking payment apps might seem to be a case of ‘reinventing the wheel’, with many drivers sceptical that they’re even needed. The biggest gripe for many is the sheer number of them on the market, and not knowing which apps you’ll need before you set off on your journey. In fact, it’s not unheard of to need to use multiple different apps throughout the course of a day, even while remaining in the same town or city.

This then leads to the issue of having to download a new app on the go. It’s unnecessarily slow, particularly when compared with the process of simply putting coins into a machine. Factor in data usage and you might even end up having to pay for more megabytes so that you can download an app to pay for parking!

Then there’s coverage. The irony of this is that, while the machines are being removed due to their lack of a data network, it can sometimes be impossible to download or even open any apps because your phone can’t access its own data network. This can be a problem when you’re inside large buildings or structures… like multi-storey car parks.

We also can’t overlook the fact that you’ll need to add around 10 or 20 pence onto the displayed parking charges for the operators “processing fee” or “service charge”. Yes, every time you make a booking using a smartphone app, you’ll be charged for the privilege.

Finally, as with most technological advancements, some people are using it maliciously for their own gain. Scammers have already set up websites from which users can download parking apps, but users who fall for this trick will instead receive a virus that will attack their device. If you’re downloading one of the many parking apps, make sure it’s from the official download store.

The Upside To Parking Apps

The good news is that as the government phase out parking machines, they’re improving their relationship with the parking app operators – in particular, major player RingGo.

RingGo is set to work with the government to establish a national platform aimed at streamlining the process. With this version of parking payment still in its infancy, ‘teething problems’ could be to blame, along with a truckload of entrepreneurs trying to jump on the bandwagon and cash in on the gold rush. In time, paying for parking via your phone might become easier.

The parking process has definitely been improved by the implementation of apps in some ways, with drivers no longer having to panic about getting back to their car before the time runs out to either leave or top up the machine. Smartphone parking apps allow users to see a live countdown of how much time they have left and even add on more time, wherever they are, with the touch of a button. No need to ruin your evening out with a sprint back to the car!

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