Pay-by-phone parking meters may be on the way

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 July, 2012, 12:00am


The days of having to rush back to 'feed the parking meter' could be over thanks to a revolutionary upgrade that would allow drivers to remotely extend their parking time before it expires.

The Transport Department has been studying ways of incorporating more payment features into a new generation of parking meters to be introduced after 2018, to replace the city's existing 9,800, which have been in use since 2003 and only accept payment via an Octopus Card.

Under the remote-payment plan, pre-registered drivers would receive a text message when their parking time was about to expire. They could then pay for more time by making a phone call or sending a reply message - without having to return to the parking meter in person.

The idea is included in a study submitted to the Legislative Council for discussion by a transport panel next Tuesday.

The paper, which was drawn up after joint research with the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, says that the system could also provide information on the availability of parking spaces.

However, while extending parking time remotely would be extremely convenient for drivers already occupying a space, it presents difficulties for others roaming the streets looking for somewhere to park.

'We are mindful of its possible impact on the principle of the provision of on-street spaces for short-term parking,' the department paper says.

'There is also concern that the introduction of this payment method might call for a need to revamp the existing enforcement mechanism.'

Central and Western district councillor Cheng Lai-king, who serves in one of the most traffic-choked districts in Hong Kong, echoed the concern.

'Maybe the government should introduce this at less heavily used meters,' Cheng suggested.

The new meters could also accept 'contactless cards', like Visa payWave and the soon-to-be introduced MasterCard PayPass, the government paper says.

A trial scheme would begin after Legco's approval, with interested service providers being allowed 20 meters for experiments.

The new meters would still retain the Octopus-card payment option.

James Kong Yat-hung, the vice-president of the Hong Kong Automobile Association, urged the government to also look into ways to improve charging arrangements for overnight parking.