Pick a Card, Any Card – Are Car Park Tickets an Ancient Art?

I am passionate about embracing new technology and evolving the parking industry so that we remain at the cutting edge, but sometimes I feel that the basics can make us seem a little backward, or slow to adopt and change.

To me, there is something a little draconian about printing out tickets for every single customer that uses a car park, be it a Pay on Foot (PoF) or Pay and Display (P&D), the majority of car parks in the world still print out non reusable tickets for every customer that visits. Each of these are thrown away after use, and many cant be recycled due the coatings on the tickets which make the heat printing process possible.

There are a number of manufacturers that currently offer alternatives to the paper ticket, such as chip coins or chip cards, and although these work well there are issues with the cost of the coins (around £6.50 per coin compared with £0.01p for a ticket) and the fact that you cant add any visible data to the coin, so the customers cant see when they entered etc.

ANPR is also an option for car parks, but I think this also has its flaws, as in my experience not many customers actually know their registration plate, and the extra time it takes for a customer to find their car on the pay machine can make the entire payment process quite onerous. Relying on this as your only payment solution in a busy car park will cause big problems and I think the learning curve will be huge.

Options for P&D car parks are available such as pay by phone, but it is clear that the registration process for this service is very unpopular and customers frequently complain about the complexity of the procedure.

So whats the answer? Unfortunately I don’t know yet, but I think its a great debate to have, and whoever works it out will become wealthy very quickly.

I think the Mifare (Oyster) cards are a great option as they are much cheaper than chip coins, but we would need equipment that can dispense them, and they cant have unique visible data written each time (although I’m not sure if there is such a material that can write and rewrite visible data?).

The big one for me is Wave Pay. It is sure to make a big impact soon, signs on car park entries will read “show debit /credit card or mobile phone to enter” and customers wont take any form of ticket at all, this is also an option on P&D and payments and receipts will be sent to your phone or charged direct by card.

So my advice is to make sure you are ready for Wave Pay, its my hot tip for the future, but also think about other options, because if it works you could very well change the way we all park, and also make a few quid too!