Road Network Operations
& Intelligent Transport Systems
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Parking Payment

Electronic payment systems facilitate inter-modal transfers – and are a key feature in an integrated transport strategy, which may include on-street or off-street parking facilities.

Smart cards and proximity cards can be used as a means of payment at on-street parking meters. These methods of payment can also be used to record time of arrival/entry – and to regulate access to off-street car parks, such as in cities and at airports – if the necessary equipment is installed and operator agreements and back-office processes are in place.

Mobile phones (as a payment platform for parking) may be used to register a Vehicle Registration Mark (VRM) at a specific location, with a parking service provider. Traffic wardens (or an ANPR-assisted back-office arrangement) can cross-reference the permitted list of vehicles registered for parking within the location, to ensure that each vehicle is associated with a parking account (or a valid method of payment). Tags or more sophisticated OBUs may also be used as a method of payment or to identify an account to be charged. In the future satellite navigation (GNSS-based OBUs) may be used to automatically record entry and exit to on-street parking zones – and to enable the total charge to be calculated and billed (See Toll Collection).

In summary, there is a broad range of payment options for on-street and off-street parking. Examples where smart cards, DSRC (or RFID) tags proximity cards or mobile phones (used as a payment platform) may be used as a method of payment for parking payment, include:

  • payment at on-street parking meters – as illustrated below
  • payment on exit from an off street car park (a card or OBU / tag is used to gain entry and record the entry time) – enforced by a barrier
  • payment for on-street parking by registering a VRM through a mobile phone app or by sending an SMS containing information such as, the number of the parking bay and the vehicles’ VRM, to a centrally operated parking database

The successful implementation of a non-cash method of payment for parking can be judged by the proportion of parking fees that are paid using it.

An Octopus-based parking meter, Hong Kong

Technologies, Data and Resources

A non-cash method of payment, such as a tag, OBU, smart card, proximity card or mobile phone (to provide the payment platform), may be used for on-street and off-street parking. Users are required to take some action to register the vehicle with its location and a valid means of payment. This may include:

  • fitting a tag to a vehicle (unless a tag is already present for Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) purposes – so that the account may be identified on entry and exit to an off-street car park (for example, at Copenhagen Airport)
  • employing a more sophisticated OBU that integrates a method of payment – such as a stored-value card, debit or credit card – which is debited on entry or exit to a car park (for example, many car parks in Singapore)
  • manually swiping a card or an NFC-enabled mobile phone against a reader on entry (and exit) or at a ‘pay-on-foot’ terminal or parking meter
  • manually triggering an app on a mobile phone to allow the user to provide details of the vehicle’s location, its Vehicle Registration Mark (VRM) and the account to be charged

If a parking operator wishes to attract customers that are also users of a nearby ETC scheme, the parking operators’ electronic payment systems will need to be interoperable with the ETC scheme. An arrangement of this type will require a commercial agreement between the operators – as well as a data link so that payment records can be transferred every time an ETC account holder completes the parking payment process. Although not necessary, an ETC tag could provide a convenient method of payment for parking – in which case, charges would be billed to the ETC account. Alternatively, charges could be billed to a separate parking account.

Advice to Practitioners

A parking operator has the option of establishing its own method of payment – based on proximity cards, smart cards, mobile phones or tags. The cost and convenience to car park users of each method needs to be assessed against traditional paper ticket-based systems.

Value Added Services

ETC systems which are made to be interoperable with parking facilities can be offered as value-added services (See Toll Collection and Value Added Services). Examples include:

In all cases, one of the most challenging issues is to reach agreement on the payment cycle. This is because:

  • the ETC operator may not be able to pay the parking operator as frequently as the parking operator desires (such as daily)
  • there may be other transaction charges which the parking operator is liable to pay to the account service provider of the method of payment. These additional costs may undermine the cost-savings of interoperability

Toll road operators may be reluctant to include parking amongst the services it provides to users, either because it increases their costs or simply because they do not want to complicate their core business. It may help if the management of accounts and methods of payment are kept separate from the service providers. In this way a toll road operator and parking operator would be separate but equal entities – in the same way as a credit card company views its varied network of retailers. The European Directive on Interoperability provides an example of organisational separation.

Achieving Compliance

All EPSs need to be enforced. Implementing an electronic payment system for on-street parking needs sufficient resources for enforcement to ensure that revenues may be accurately and fully collected. Off-street car parks may use automated enforcement (such as a barrier) or a manual operator. Both methods are effective since vehicle entry and exit to an off-street car park is already highly restricted – most commonly to one entry and exit location. As with non-cash methods of payment for passenger fares, the removal of cash from the point of use of parking can lower the cost of operations, reduce queues to pay, and can help ensure that a system is auditable (See Passenger Fare Payment).

Legacy, Obsolescence & Upgrade Issues

If parking is a Value Added Service (VAS) to a nearby ETC system, then changes to the ETC system operation and its method of payment may either force obsolescence (such as the end of a method of payment) or offer new opportunities (such as a new method of payment with a lower cost of implementation and operation).


Reference sources
  1. Easytrip (Ireland):

  2. Viaverde (Portugal): (go to ‘Products and Services’)

  3. European Commission 2004, Directive 2004/52/EU  on the interoperability of electronic road toll systems in the Community, (

  4. European Commission 2009, Decision 2009/750/EU on the definition of the European Electronic Toll Service and its technical elements,  (