What happened to car park payment machines?

16th September 2021

What happened to car park payment machines?

So, you turn up at your local hospital for a follow up appointment, and you find a space for your car. Looking around for information on payment and parking times, you eventually find a massive sign in the bushes:

Car parking sign in Oxford

Fortunately, you already have the app that this system uses, so you pay for parking without too much hassle, but imagine if you are a very elderly person coming for a worrying appointment and you don’t have a smartphone? If you weren’t already experiencing palpitations, this sign – with its vast swathes of text and complete absence of clear instructions – will be sure to provide them. The name of the company that operates this system?

Simple Intelligent Parking.

Surely, in an age of contactless payments and graphical interfaces, we should be able to do better than this?

Part of the problem seems to be that companies throw every possible technology at the problem, so we have ANPR systems to read your numberplate (to avoid having to print a ticket), coupled with numerous parking payment apps, online accounts and terminals that allow contactless card payments and – occasionally - cash. All these systems are designed to lower costs for the operators (no tickets to refill, or parking attendants to pay) but are manifestly not intended to make life easier for the person trying to park.

In reality, it seems likely that there are two types of customer who will be using these systems – those who are comfortable with apps/contactless/web and those who are not. Would it not make sense to just have two systems – say a contactless card tap point at the barrier on the way out, and a cash/card payment machine somewhere in the car park for those who need it?

Whatever the system solution is, there is a desperate need for the people who build these machines to employ some decent graphic and interface designers – and some standardised methods of explaining the options wouldn’t hurt either. As for the sheer number of parking apps that are springing up  – that’ll have to wait for another time!

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