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The Appalling Reality of Parking: Drivers Forced to Tap Their Phones Up to 226 Times.


Baffled motorists have to tap their smartphone a whopping 226 times when they are forced to use an app to pay for parking.

App-controlled parking meters are commonplace in city centers and at hospitals and train stations. For some time now they have been offered in addition to payment terminals, with which drivers can use coins or tap a bank card. But these machines are increasingly being discarded, leaving motorists with no choice but to log into a smartphone app when they first appear in many parking lots.

Campaigners say that especially older people with poor eyesight and arthritic hands suffer from app-only parking. They are also more likely to have standard mobile phones that cannot run apps rather than smartphones.

Poor internet coverage can also make apps impossible to use.

POS terminals have disappeared from parts of London and will soon disappear in Brighton and Slough. Many municipalities are dropping them because the 3G mobile network they were used with will soon be shut down. Upgrading to 4G can cost millions, so municipalities are switching to parking apps.

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A Mail on Sunday reporter signed up for the main apps and counted the ‘keystrokes’ – how many taps on the phone screen – it took to pay to park.

Unlike using a point-of-sale terminal, our reporter had to sign up for the apps by entering her name, address, email address, debit card details, and car make and color.

Using one of the most popular apps, Apcoa Connect, our reporter used 226 keystrokes and took three minutes and 43 seconds to sign up and pay. It can take much longer in an older person. The JustPark app took 135 taps to complete the process, but it still took almost three and a half minutes.

Dennis Reed, of Silver Voices, a campaign group for the over 60s, said: ‘How on earth is it expected that older people, who may have poor eyesight and stiff fingers, have to negotiate this Byzantine series of operations on a small screen, particularly if the weather is bad or the mobile signal is bad?

It is not surprising that so many of our members are forced to leave the high street because of this counterproductive action. Thousands do not own a smartphone or only use it to make calls.

“The elderly are also municipal taxpayers and we are urging our members to raise this age discrimination with political parties ahead of local elections on May 4.”

Drivers parking in different parts of the same city may even need to use more than one app if they use municipal car parks and car parks at shopping centres, leisure parks or at stations.

People with low vision and arthritis are particularly affected by pay-to-park apps

People with low vision and arthritis are particularly affected by pay-to-park apps

In Slough, the council is switching to app-only payments with RingGo, but parking at the station is managed by Apcoa, although there are pay machines as well. Tereena Davies, CEO of Age Concern Slough, said: ‘It’s going to be very difficult for the elderly. It leaves them. With the security vulnerabilities and scams, there is a lot of suspicion around technology.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: ‘We are still light years away from a world where digital technology can help everyone.’

The small station at Sandy in Bedfordshire requires two apps: the car park for trains to London with PayByPhone and the one across the bridge with Apcoa.

Many town halls say motorists can still get tickets for cash through the PayPoint system in stores.

Apps such as RingGo and PayByPhone allow drivers to pass card details over the phone, but they can also incur additional charges of up to 30 pence per hour if used in this way.

Parking apps have proved so lucrative that major car brands have entered the market, with VW owning PayByPhone and RingGo, until recently controlled by BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

JustPark, whose turnover more than doubled to £8 million last year, said it had earned its ‘partners’, mainly councils and other car park owners, £250 million over 15 years.

Government contracts reveal a multi-million pound industry. Last year, RingGo was one of five companies in a £29.7 million deal to provide parking services in the City of London until 2027. Apcoa has secured deals worth nearly £18 million over three years, including £11, 3 million with the London Borough of Hillingdon and nearly £650,000 to park at Manchester Aquatic Centre.

Slough Borough Council said: ‘We will be removing the parking meters in the next 12 months. For those who don’t have a smartphone or don’t use parking apps, we look at the possibilities of PayPoint.’

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