Cashless parking has proliferated across the UK in the past decade and a half. It’s become the default option for many drivers, and now also an imperative solution. This is not only because of the call for connected, digital services, but also because of health concerns in the wake of the pandemic.
The danger of cross-contamination through parking machines has encouraged more drivers to adopt cashless parking; drivers now see app-based technology as the more convenient choice, but it’s not without its challenges, says Peter O’ Driscoll, managing director, RingGo.
While the majority of digital transactions are seamless, with drivers being able to locate, pay for and extend a parking session using technology in the palm of their hand, some drivers encounter obstacles and frustrations in the process. Namely the lack of choice that they are accustomed to in most other digital interactions.
However, the advent of a multivendor approach in parking means that some of the headache can be dispelled open market offerings mean more accessibility of cashless parking for drivers, with a range of choices for payment, and a better overall parking experience.
What multivendor can mean for drivers
Parking is the first and last part of a driver’s journey, and the experience drivers take from this can influence how they move about towns and cities. A good parking experience is important for business, as it can encourage drivers to visit high streets, spend with local shops and make return journeys to retail centres.
According to the NCP, 50% of motorists admit to avoiding particular retail parks or shopping centres because they think they’re likely to encounter parking issues there. This is why properly managing parking experiences is about so much more than a rectangle of asphalt and a few white lines. Implementing a solution with real choice is the next step in catering to the customer. It is a strategy that increases parking convenience and improves the perception of transport in local areas.
Having multiple cashless parking solutions operate in the same area is the future. While this seems like common sense, it is actually a relatively new concept for the UK, one which really puts the power in motorist’s hands for the first time. Drivers don’t have to spend time reading through confusing signage or downloading multiple applications.
They get to choose the best app for them, with the easiest user experience, and benefit from stress-free parking experiences. While this shift to multiple solution provision puts convenience as a top priority, the benefits don’t stop there local authorities can reap rewards too.
The positive impact of multivendor for local authorities
Multivendor options help local authorities manage the influx of cars on the road. On Friday 28 May 2021, according to data from the Department for Transport, car traffic hit 101% of the average level seen in the first week of February 2020. The increase in traffic coincided with the start of some school holidays, good weather, and the bank holiday weekend.
As Britain gets moving again, and there are upticks of traffic on our streets, drivers will look for the easiest ways to park. This change, coupled with the widescale removal of pay and display machines across many localities, means that providing digital convenience will be a huge revenue driver for councils.
Local authorities can reap the productivity and efficiency benefits from open market solutions. There are benefits for data-driven insights, with aggregated reporting across providers and machines. It also reduces costs and increases uptake of cashless parking, creates competition in the market, and increases focus on innovation, benefiting both councils and end-consumers.
While relatively new in the UK, Europe has been leveraging multivendor solutions for years. Councils may still be seeking the cheapest option, but an open market approach can benefit both local authorities and suppliers too. Councils can request qualitative applications from cashless providers, then share pricing, with a tacit agreement that suppliers act sensibly, and don’t charge an extortionate rate per parking session.
Why open markets will shape the future of parking
Integrating enforcement, tariffs and reconciliation of funds between multiple providers can add complexity in the short term, but councils can use a central hub approach to simplify this need. When integrated with other forms of information and sources of business intelligence, the benefits of multivendor are exponential.
If councils start encouraging leading providers to implement and develop new solutions, they can ultimately bring a better service to drivers everywhere, who will naturally lean towards the provider offering the best solution. This in turn encourages all providers to finesse their offerings, improving the market for everyone.
The author is Peter O’ Driscoll, managing director at RingGo.