Paying for Parking

During the working week, I regularly park in an area controlled by parking meters – not one per slot, but in big blocks, so you pay for your ticket/parking at a machine, and return the ticket to the car.

It’s an area/business that in many ways doesn’t seem to have kept up with progress at all, but in others is quite a way ahead of most other places. It’s very odd – and it seems like a lot of people are caught in that middle space between the two extremes.

You see, the meters themselves take cash, and only cash. There’s no facility to take card payments, let alone contactless. I assume that some of this is down to maintenance costs – the more things it can do, the more things there are that can fuck up.

Then at the other end of the scale, we can use online/mobile payment setups like RingGo to pay for parking, which is super-easy to do, and works really nicely.  (There are other parking payment providers, most of which are worse than RingGo, but they’re still getting used by various councils etc. around the country)  There’s no need for cash, it’s all smooth and simple to do, with the parking wardens having smartphone equivalents where they can check each vehicle’s registration and see if it’s paid for parking online.

Both solutions seem to work, either with the super-basic “put coins in the machine” or the semi-techie (but still really pretty simple once it’s set up) paying via mobile/online.  There’s also the ability to pay by phone using RingGo, but that appears to be overly complex.

However, both options seem destined to confuse the majority of people.  I regularly see people dredging pockets for change – which is becoming less common, with the prevalence of debit cards and contactless payments, so they’re surprised and unprepared for needing coins to park – or completely stumped by smartphone apps, or having problems with the paying by phone.

In some ways that harks back to people not being prepared, but at the same time I do understand that these meters are a bit of a surprise. They’re so low-tech in many ways, and people just don’t seem to expect that.  But they’re also unprepared for using their smartphones – despite this whole pay online/app thing becoming more and more common for parking – and don’t have the relevant app, or have it set up. And even with 4G coverage etc., it seems that a lot of them are utterly unable (or just unwilling) to sort out installing the app and just doing things the easy way.

I don’t know what the answer is. I think we’re in this weird hinterland at the moment, where we’ve still got simultaneous low-tech and hi-tech solutions, and people are just caught in the middle, too advanced to be happy with the low-tech, but a large number also still unhappy or uncomfortable with the hi-tech alternative, so they’re stuck in some kind of mid-tech wilderness.

It’s very odd, but interesting to watch and see how things go.

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