A council is set to spend just over £1 million on what it expects will be the last ever parking machines in the car parks of Milton Keynes.
The 130 new high tech machines, if the move is agreed next week, will replace the current 250 old and tatty ones that are costing Milton Keynes Council a whopping £10,000 each month to maintain.
Instead of printing out tickets to place on the dashboard, they will require drivers to tap in their registration numbers. Most of the machines in the business district could also be cashless.
New detector vehicles, armed with number plate recognition kit, would then roam up and down the parking lanes and be able to spot people who have parked without paying. They would then alert parking attendants who would zone in to the exact vehicle and issue fines.
Sara Bailey, MK Council’s strategic manager parking and taxis, in her report to Cabinet member Cllr Martin Gowans, says: “The life-span of the payment terminals is around 10 years and the council does not expect to purchase new machines at the end of this period.
“It is expected that the way people pay to park, as well as the way people own and drive vehicles, will significantly change over this period.”
She continues: “As the number of internet ‘connected’ intelligent cars on the road starts to increase rapidly it is likely that within 10 years a large proportion of vehicles will be paying without the need for direct human interaction – which the new parking contract will also enable Milton Keynes to pioneer.”
The new contract will also produce a large amount of data, which should help the council to plan for parking needs more effectively. The increasing use of technology also allows them to cut the number of parking machines that they need.
The report says the current parking payment machines have an average lifespan of between 8 and 12 years but have lasted more than 20 years.
But now they are often breaking down, and the parts are becoming obsolete, leading to driver frustration when machines don’t work.
MK Council wants to make sure it can continue to make in excess of £14 million each year from parking fees.
“The machines are also clearly antiquated and many are very tatty,” said Sara Bailey. “This does not give a good impression to those visiting Milton Keynes.”
The move will mean that the council will be able to cut the equivalent of about four cash collection officers.
Cllr Martin Gowans, the council’s cabinet member of planning and transport, will use powers delegated to him to sign off a decision at a Delegated Decisions meeting at the council offices next Tuesday (July 16).
Council officers have presented him with three options. The first is to do nothing, which they don’t recommend as it will cost £10,000 a month to maintain the old machines.
A second option they present is to go for totally cashless parking, but they don’t recommend this because if the provider – currently RingGo – goes bust it would put the council’s parking income at risk, as well as being a highly controversial move.