Traditional parking meters set to disappear

New technology will soon see the traditional coin operated parking
meter disappearing from London’s streets after they first appeared over
50 years ago. The new ‘virtual’ meters will enable motorists to pay for
their parking with their mobile phones.

Jul 12, 2007
By David Howell

Westminster Council has announced that all of its traditional roadside parking meters and their coin operated pay-and-display meters will begin to be replaced from October of this year. The aim is that all their parking meters will no longer accept coins by the end of 2008. The trial that the Council ran in Soho was so successful that it has prompted them to take action to replace all of their parking meters.

Parking attendants will use hand-held computers to track the payment of parking fees to ensure that every car has the appropriate fee attached to it. On the system, Westminster Council conducted a survey that reported that 75 per cent of respondents found the new meters ‘easy’ to use with their mobile phones. One great advantage was that they could remotely top-up their parking fee remotely by simply sending a text message.

Danny Chalkley, cabinet member for the Economic Development and Transport with the council said: “While the parking meter has a long and distinguished history stretching back almost 50 years, it looks like it has finally had its day. The evidence has shown that there is overwhelming support for the wider use of this new technology. We launched pay-by-phone parking to give motorists a new, coin-free way of paying for their parking. Being able to top-up your meter on the move without returning to your vehicle provides greater flexibility for motorists and helps them avoid unnecessary fines.”

The Council had planned their switch to cashless parking metering, but the increase in vandalism against parking meters over the last six months, has prompted councilors to accelerate their plans to introduce the new meters.

Concerns over the security of the new cashless system has been highlighted by some organisations that have pointed to the lack of measures that most mobile phone handsets have, and the fact that the system requires a credit card number to be sent via text message, which opens the system to security flaws that could be exploited. Also, critics have stated that some form of cash-based alternative should be available for the user who only parks occasionally. Westminster Council has stated that they have no intention of providing alternative systems for anyone that doesn’t have a mobile phone.

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