Published: 00:01, 30 October 2017
Pay-and-display parking tickets could become obsolete in Canterbury within 18 months as the council looks to roll out pioneering technology across the district.
By the spring of 2019 the local authority wants its car parks to be fitted with barriers operated by number-plate reading cameras, with payment made automatically online or at the tap of a debit card.
A trial of the barriers in three car parks last year proved a success, but the council is striving to improve the technology and extend it across Canterbury, Whitstable and Herne Bay.
Companies will next month be invited to pitch for the contract, with a winner expected to be chosen in the spring.
Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding, who is leading the project with council officers, said: “Normally with a tender you go to the market and say ‘I want X, Y and Z, what’s your price?’, and then you pick the cheapest.
“But with this we’re being far more open and saying ‘we want you to help us design the very latest technology’.
“We want people to come to us with innovative ideas on how best to operate our car parks.
“It’s going to be really interesting and will hopefully push boundaries.”
Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) barriers were trialled for six months last year – and still remain – in Pound Lane in Canterbury, William Street in Herne Bay and Middle Wall in Whitstable.
Cameras register the details of vehicles entering before the barriers are raised, with motorists paying at a machine for the exact time used before leaving.
But the technology will be more advanced when the scheme is rolled out across 17 car parks, including those at the city’s three park and ride sites.
As with the trial, drivers can register for online accounts so the barriers raise automatically and money is taken straight from bank accounts.
There is also likely to be an option of tapping in and out of car parks using contactless debit cards.
Instant data on usage will be fed straight back to council headquarters, enabling the authority to guide motorists to the best sites.
Cllr Fitter-Harding said: “We’re being very pioneering in trying to use this technology with a longer term smart city future in mind.
“As well as making parking easier and more seamless, it will also provide us with by-the-second data which will be key for understanding traffic movements. We want to put up signage that will tell you exactly what spaces are available in what car parks and guide you there.
“We don’t want everyone queueing up at Watling Street when there are loads of spaces at Pound Lane.
““It would help us manage traffic flows, get data out to sat-navs and help us get it on the council website.”
The £1.3m scheme will largely be funded by parking charge revenue.
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