Pay and Display
A Brief History of This 'New' Technology
A Brief History of This 'New' Technology
There continues to be dynamic changes with the use of the "Pay and Display" parking methodology across North America. These changes involve both the growth in demand for this type of equipment as well as the competitive landscape in supplying product. In true entrepreneurial spirit, opportunities are available both for the operators who purchase and use the equipment and for the manufacturers and dealers who supply the product.
The introduction of "Pay and Display" multi-space parking meters occurred in the 1950s. These first machines, which were mechanically driven, provided the customer with reasonable convenience to purchase parking by way of a receipt that was displayed on the customer's dashboard. While this methodology gained acceptance in Canada and Europe, the United States market continued instead to use the single-spaced parking meter. With technological advancements improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the "Pay and Display" multi-space parking meters, it is becoming more and more difficult for parking operators to ignore the advantages. Further, unique applications for the meters, beyond off-street parking (both lots and structures) and on-street parking, include boat launches, camping sites and other "proof of payment" scenarios.
Many universities and hospitals also see the advantages of the "Pay and Display" multi-space parking meters as a means of supporting temporary visitors to their facilities. In this case, a consistent "user" of their parking facility will purchase a "proof of purchase" tag or sticker that is permanently displayed on the vehicle. Occasional parking customers can use the "Pay and Display" meter to use the facility. Before the availability of pay and display, universities and/or hospitals would require the customer to purchase a temporary tag from a cashier, or park in restricted/gated lots. Using the parking meter is much more efficient for both the customer and the administrator.
With advancements in remote/ wireless communication as well as cost reductions and quality improvements in many electronic components, today's "Pay and Display" multi-space parking meters are very impressive. A parking operator can expect to find a plethora of features that can be combined to meet specific needs. Most all manufacturers offer the ability for their machines to accept coins, currency, credit cards and smartcards, with reports being generated through both the receipt printer and an electronic download of transaction information directly from the machine. To meet the expectations of customers using machines for off-street parking, most machines offer the ability to provide change.
Moving up the feature list, some manufacturers offer remote access to their machines by way of wireless communication. Normally, access occurs through a "batching" process, where the machine is polled for information on a periodic basis. As mentioned before, with advancements in communication technology, a few manufacturers are now offering real-time wireless monitoring of the multi-space meter. This provides the operator with the ability to remotely monitor the machine for alarms (attempted break-in, component failure, revenue servicing, etc.), complete credit card authorizations real-time, and reconfigure the rates and customer interface display without needing to visit the machine.
The application of the "Pay and Display" multi-space meter is gaining popularity in the U.S. market. Many municipalities are beginning to realize the benefits in two areas. First, with new technologies, greater customer convenience, and a general understanding of the technology by the public, municipalities are seeking to assess the advantages (i.e., increased revenue potential as well as decreased operating costs). Second, some municipalities, such as the City of San Francisco, are requiring a tamper-proof auditing process within the multi-space meter to ensure that they are collecting the correct tax revenue from parking operators.
Private parking operators are also realizing the benefits of the "Pay and Display" multi-space meter as a means to protect revenues and lower operating costs. When compared to normal "attended" lots, the "Pay and Display" meter allows for revenue collection on a 24/7 basis and ensures that all the funds collected are fully reconcilable. Additionally, overall security of the machines has increased dramatically, making them highly tamper resistant. Generally, operators find earnings increase when moving from an attended lot to "Pay and Display" meters.
While the momentum of the "Pay and Display" methodology is continuing to grow across the United States, there is still considerable room for additional innovation. This innovation will ensure greater end-user convenience, while reducing operating costs. Clearly, there remains considerable growth potential in this industry for all the constituencies involved.
Bill Ellis is the general manager of Ventek International.
He can be reached at email@example.com