By Craig Logan, EasyPark ANZ General Manager
The parking sector is changing rapidly. Thanks to new technologies and innovations, parking is transforming from a manual process to an integrated, data-led, smart system. So, does this spell the end of the traditional coin and card meters? You might expect Craig Logan, General Manager of EasyPark ANZ, the largest Pay via Phone parking service in Australia, to claim that this is the case, but, for now, he sees old and new technologies working side by side.
The saying goes that life is not about the destination but the journey. But in the parking industry, it is all about the destination. Whether it’s for business or pleasure, for many, ultimately a car journey ends with paying for the use of a particular parking space.
The history of parking
It is a system that was first introduced in Oklahoma City in the US in 1935. Twenty years later, when Hobart installed its first meter on 1 April 1955, the Australian paid-parking industry was born.
For many years the most common method of paying for parking was by coins and more recently, by bank or credit card. In most cases, users either identify the bay they are in or display a printed ticket on their dashboard. But mobile devices have revolutionised the way we park.
Easypark’s rapid growth
EasyPark was established in Europe in 2001, and its Pay via Phone service is now active in more than 25 countries and nearing 4,000 cities. It is the most used Pay via Phone parking service in the world – and in Australia. The EasyPark ANZ team was established in 2012 and today we have close to three million users. Our rate of growth across Australian cities continues to accelerate and we are now increasing our user base by about one million new users per year.
The City of Perth is the fourth Australian capital city to adopt EasyPark’s Pay via Phone service, in addition to Canberra, Hobart and Melbourne. We also have established partnerships with more than 70 Australian councils and Parking Operators including City of Newcastle (NSW) and Gold Coast Council (QLD) to name a few.
The beauty of our app is that it is easy to set up and gives users control because they select their start and finish time. Unlike traditional physical parking meters which require the user to pay up front, (often over-spending for fear of being fined), or other apps which require preloaded funds, EasyPark App users only pay for the time they park. If they end their parking sooner than expected, they can stop early and then only pay for the time they use, saving money.
So where does this leave the humble parking meter? Well, put it this way, do you remember when there was a phone booth on every street? If so, you’ll recall that phone boxes were amazing technology for their day. Overnight, we could contact anyone, from anywhere.
Fast forward to today, and phone booths are few and far between all thanks to the introduction of the mobile phone. With an estimated 22 million Australians now owning a mobile phone, there’s hardly any need for public pay phones – and if you do find one that works, it’s probably damaged or covered in graffiti.
The rise of the parking app
Technology is the driver behind these changes, and we are witnessing something similar with the introduction and adoption of the parking apps versus the traditional parking meter. The paid-parking industry is evolving with technology – contactless, frictionless and the ability to remotely extend your parking is now the new normal.
The other challenge facing the traditional parking meter is the very technology that enables its functionality. Most of the current meter fleet out on the street is connected via modems restricted to the 3G network. In June 2024, 3G will be shut down.
Fortunately for many EasyPark clients the uptake of the app is so high (some council clients are reporting 70 per cent + uptake), that many councils are electing to not upgrade their parking meters and even scale back on their fleet.
One council has informed us that it will reduce its fleet by about 85 per cent while two other parking operators have already made the executive decision to decommission their meters completely and move to 100 per cent Pay via Phone.
In these examples, and for other city councils coming to the same cloud-based conclusion, this means significantly reduced upgrade costs from 3G modems to 4G and 5G over the years and in turn, yield significantly reduced ongoing Opex costs into the future (things like EMV compliance upgrades are also a thing of the past).
Supporting council’s digital journey
Ultimately, councils and parking operators have to provide choice for the end user and it is important to cater for all demographics with a mix of options. Without doubt though, this mix of payment methods is now rapidly changing because of the high level of app adoption to replace parking meters across Australia.
It will be interesting to see how future innovations, increased digitalisation and the associated data will impact commuters, city planners, businesses, day-trippers and tourists as journey numbers increase following the bounce back from the global pandemic.
So, is the parking meter dead? Well, we look at it this way. With every passing day a physical parking meter becomes older, whereas mobile phone technology gets upgraded and actually improves with time.
It won’t be long before dependency on expensive physical parking meters wanes to a point where they have a similar distribution to physical on street phone booths. So while the parking meter still has a place on the street today, it might not tomorrow. We will continue to work with city councils on this digital journey and we will be there to support them when they reach their destination.
This sponsored editorial is brought to you by EasyPark. For more information, contact Craig Logan at email@example.com