Juliet Platt says Swindon Borough Council’s new cashless car-parking system, where motorists can pay for parking over a secure mobile phone application, is not as easy to use as she hoped, and is more expensive than using good old cash.
It is hoped will pay-by-phone car-parking will contribute to the revitalisation of town centre shopping, as well as prove more convenient for busy people who have more important things to think about than having the correct change for the parking meter.
But beware. There are hidden costs. Every transaction incurs a 20p fee, meaning that your hour of parking costs £1.40 as opposed to the £1.20 you would have paid had you had the luxury of change.
Another niggle is the fact that you can’t pay for parking in units of time less than one hour, which renders the system little more convenient than using coins.
It would be great if you could save yourself from the warden’s ticket by adding an extra 10 minutes to your parking time, at a percentage of the full rate, but if you want to extend your time you have to do it by the hour, incurring another full hour’s fee, plus a transaction charge.
According to the PayByPhone website it is at the discretion of the parking operator, in this case SBC, whether they waive the transaction fee or include it in the standard parking rate. Likewise, the parking operator can elect which time period units are made available.
Unfortunately, SBC has chosen to pass on the transaction fee to the motorist and only make the top rate unit of time available. So it would appear that this scheme has not entirely been set up with the consumer in mind.
Registration for the scheme over a mobile phone isn’t entirely straightforward either, taking at least 15 minutes by the time you’ve got the location code, your credit card number and security code, and your registration plate number all ready for input. This is all very vexing if you’re in a hurry for an appointment.
Probably best to register online from the comfort of your own home – though if that’s the case you might as well do your shopping online while you’re at it. So much for town centre revitalisation.