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EA Group pay station: incorporates all options for payment by cash or credit card

Time to pay

Published:  01 March, 2005

Ensuring you choose the right payment method is extremely important in generating custom

Choosing which payment system suits your car park best can be a complicated and confusing business.

Once you have chosen to charge for parking, you need to decide whether to go for a pay-and-display or a pay-on-foot method. There are arguments for each and, as a provider of both, Metric (01285 651441) believes every car park owner should consider carefully which will benefit it more.

Making a mistake and installing an expensive barrier system can be a costly error if it is decided later that a pay-and-display system would have been a better option.

Bill Laurie of Metric says: “There are pros and cons with both systems. What we see sometimes is a multi-storey car park, for instance, changing from a barrier system to pay-and-display, but we also see it the other way around.

“Doncaster council changed one of their car parks from barriers to pay-and-display because the car park was right in the centre of the town and on a Saturday morning the traffic was backing up into the main street and causing congestion as people were queuing at the barriers. They couldn’t take the barrier back any further so they took it away so people can drive straight in.”

Laurie says that the advantage with the barrier system is there is no need for enforcement officers as no one can get in without a ticket or get out without paying, whereas with pay and display there is a need to ensure customers have paid.

“However, the barrier system requires people for when the barriers get stuck and the ticket doesn’t come out,” he adds.

“Some people say a barrier system is better for security but I don’t think that’s the case because people will still try to steal a car from a car park with barriers.”

Another significant difference between pay-on-foot and pay-and-display is that the first gives change to customers, while the latter doesn’t.

Metric Parking’s Aslan networked system gives car park operators real-time reporting from their machines and assists with enforcement.

Laurie says: “You can network the machines, which means inside there is a mobile phone and the machines all talk to each other and communicate back to the control office.

“Aslan is very, very powerful software. The first part is alert so that if the machine breaks down, is being attacked or runs out of tickets, it will send a message saying there is a problem.

“The machines also produce data to say they have sold X number of tickets, collected X number of coins and when the busy and quiet parts of the day are.”

Laurie says the SIM card is used to communicate to the office, while the voice part of the phone has been used as a help point facility so that communication is possible with the control office, which can also observe customers via CCTV.

Ascom (01276 807100) says parking must be convenient for shoppers and revenue should be good. It says property managers and car park operators have a choice between pay-on-foot and pay-and-display systems – each offers its own benefits.

An Ascom spokesman says it’s to everyone’s advantage to make the shopping trip as long and pleasurable as possible, with more time browsing leading to more time at the tills. He says: “Pay-and-display tends to satisfy motorists who know pretty well what they need to purchase and how much time it will take. Others not wishing to be constrained by fixed tickets and the risk of penalties or wheel clamping for outstaying their chosen time span, find pay-on-foot more flexible. The choice of system is often dictated by the size of the centre and its proximity to other attractions such as banks, libraries, cinemas or places of historic interest.”

The company’s Multipark pay-on-foot revenue management system is proving to be a popular choice, with Millburngate in Durham choosing the system and Beacon shopping centre in North Shields also set to replace its payment systems with the machines.

APT SkiData’s (020 8421 2211) Irish partner, Advance Parking Solutions (all calls to APT) has just completed an installation at Dungarvan’s new shopping centre in Waterford.

The company has installed two entry columns, two exit columns, three pay stations and a bi-directional lane in the new 600-space multi-storey car park, which is due to increase significantly in the future.

Canterbury tale:

Land Securities chose Parkeon (01202 850927) to supply the pay-on-foot parking system for its £100m Whitefriars development in Canterbury.

Parkeon has installed six of its latest Varioflex automatic pay stations, together with barrier-controlled terminals in the development’s 530-space, multi-storey car park.

A Varioflex central server in the car park manager’s office provides a log of real-time events on a PC, while alarms and warnings enable car park personnel to be directed immediately to deal with any situation.

The new-style pay stations are said to provide a more secure environment for credit card payment as all transactions are authorised by CreditCall Communications’ (0117 930 4455) CardEase Payment Service.

The server’s counting function tracks the car park’s occupancy levels and generates financial and statistical data to optimise the parking facilities’ potential income.

Centre manager Peter Scutt says: “As the developers, we are pleased with this new-generation equipment. It gives us the flexibility that we were looking for.”

The pay stations are fully compliant with the Disabilities Discrimination Act.

Teaming up to make payment easy:

With credit card payments becoming an increasingly popular way to pay for parking, Bibit Global payments (bibit.com) and EA Group (01372 459536) have teamed up to provide a flexible solution to chip and pin payment.

The partnership brings together several key elements, which includes Bibit’s real-time online payment service.

Robert Munday, md of EA Group, points out that most modern systems have a credit card facility, and adds: “Now shopping centre owners are contemplating updating the car park equipment to accommodate the new parking requirements for car parks, but there is a lot of confusion out there and not just from shopping centres – local authorities are the same.

“There is now a shift in liability for the client. If a customer visiting the shopping centre chooses not to use chip and pin when it has been made readily available by the company, and instead opts for chip only or magnetic strip, and that card turns out to be stolen or used illegally, then the client is liable for that rather than the bank.”

EA Group and Bibit, with parking hardware provider Amano (amano.co.jp), have developed a machine that incorporates options for payment by cash or by credit card, with options for magnetic strip, chip-on-card or chip and pin.

Munday adds: “By working with Bibit we’re aiming to provide car park operators with payment solutions that fit their needs today.

“The benefit of our approach and the nature of the Bibit solution mean that we can accommodate any combination of customer requirement. We chose to work with Bibit because its solution is so advanced, yet with its web-based interface is very easy to use. It is also very fast and provides our customers with added value such as improved cash flow.”