The Great Debate: Should we remove "pay and display" parking machines in UK towns and cities?

The use of cash has massively declined while parking apps are on the rise. How do we integrate a seamless payment experience for all in a digital-forward future?

I was recently interviewed by the Daily Mail who have been fairly outspoken on the recent move by some local authorities to remove ‘pay and display’ parking machines in favour of using cashless alternatives. As the founder of JustPark - a parking app company aiming to make parking easier, more efficient and less stressful for drivers through new product technology, I understand the reasons why they are being removed and perhaps not surprisingly believe that better technology is now available to replace them.

However, despite the decline in usage of these machines in recent years, I recognise they are a familiar sight on UK high streets and in car parks and that their sudden removal for some, like the Mail, has been met with indignation.  For a small minority of users, their removal will cause concerns. Below are some of the arguments on both sides from my own point of view. I welcome further debate on this topic, and hope by keeping the discussion open we can get a better understanding of the future of parking and its accessibility for all.

The arguments for removing ‘Pay and Display’ Machines

The Rise of Mobile Apps

Since the Covid pandemic, the use of mobile apps for various services, including parking, has dramatically increased. These apps offer a level of convenience that traditional parking machines simply cannot match. Users can pay for parking from the comfort of their vehicles, receive reminders when their parking is about to expire, and even extend their parking time remotely - which I know is a really helpful benefit for a lot of us who get caught up when out and about.

Maintenance costs coupled with lower usage

Since 2020, if not before, the use of cash has massively declined. Many of us use our cards or mobile wallets to make payments and with this, the use of pay and display machines has also declined.  Despite this, the maintenance costs for them have risen.  Most pay and display machines use 3G and 4G technology, which is being switched off. Vodafone for example,  is set to start phasing out 3G from June this year.

The cost of upgrading these machines to 5G is very high, and with local authority budgets increasingly stretched, does it make sense to upgrade them for a lower number of users?

While at the same time, parking apps have risen in usage. The fewer people using ‘pay and display’, the less it makes sense to pay the cost of maintenance and upgrades.

Theft from the machines

Theft from machines is an unfortunate reality, leading to further maintenance costs and loss of revenue. Mobile apps, on the other hand, eliminate these issues, providing a more secure and cost-effective solution.

The arguments for keeping ‘Pay and Display’ machines

Digital Exclusion

When laid out like this it seems a no-brainer to remove them, but some MPs have already expressed concern in the move - Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up Housing and Communities wrote a letter to council leaders in April 2023 addressing the concerns being raised on cashless parking.

The argument for keeping them has for the most part has been around their use by senior citizens. Age UK said “By opting for cashless only car parks, there is a risk that it will become unnecessarily difficult for older people wishing to visit town centres for reasons such as health appointments, shopping or leisure activities. We cannot assume that everyone in our society is willing or able to make all their financial transactions digitally. ” Whilst a survey previously conducted by Consumer Intelligence found more than half of over-65s do not feel like using apps such as JustPark, RingGo and PayByPhone.

I was asked directly whether I thought a driver's preference or feeling towards using parking meters should be taken into account, and I said, 'Honestly no', so many restaurants and newsagents and other stores are going cashless, they are just saying credit or debit card now.”

'Life progresses, technology moves on and we have to adapt to it and we have to bring as many people with us as possible and make sure there are alternative solutions for those left behind.'

The reality is, the majority of this age group do have smartphones. As of March 2021, 92% of the population own a smartphone and this rises to 99% for drivers. Furthermore, you can also call a phone number to pay for your parking, and therefore a traditional phone or on-street pay phone could be used.

But if removing "Pay and Display" machines could potentially exclude any individuals from using parking facilities, then it is the responsibility of local authorities and those of us in the industry to find a creative solution.

But, Apps Fail

JustPark, in the last 12 months has had a total of 46 minutes of unplanned downtime (99.9912% uptime) which far exceeds our service level agreement and is on par with the top websites in the world.

We have many fail safes in place so we are able to fix issues quickly as soon as they arise, with minimal customer impact.

Here are some potential solutions that could bridge the gap:

Community Digital Literacy Programmes

To address the issue of digital exclusion, community digital literacy programmes could be introduced. These programmes could provide training and support for individuals who are not comfortable using digital technology. By empowering these individuals with the necessary skills, we can ensure that the transition to digital does not leave anyone behind.

Mobile Phone Signals

When it comes to Local Authorities removing machines, an emphasis has to be put on their responsibility to make sure the mobile phone signals are strong enough to support mobile internet.

Too many parking apps

The biggest complaint we hear about apps is that they hate having to download multiple apps because each car park/street has a different app. The Department for Transport is in the process of rolling out the National Parking Platform which will mean drivers can use their favourite app, wherever they are in the country.

I do believe there are other solutions when it comes to cashless parking that can be targeted directly at the older demographic, and those who don’t own smartphones. Maybe, in the same way, we give blue badges to people with a disability, is there something we can give to the most vulnerable?  Maybe you have to pay £50 a year and it means you don't need to worry about parking on the streets...

I'm not saying my suggestions are the best solutions, but I think there are alternative ways to look at these problems, and we should be looking at it from the perspective of all demographics.

It’s important that payments are taken as seamlessly as possible and we feel we have safeguards, and alternate payment options in place to do that.


The main theme that seems to come up in surveys is that people don't like "change". ‘If it's not broken, don't fix it’. However, once they understand the benefits of using an app and the savings that their local authority can make to invest in alternative areas, then there is much more understanding.

In conclusion, while the removal of "Pay and Display" parking machines offers significant benefits, it's crucial to consider the potential drawbacks. A balanced approach, which considers the needs of all users, is the key to a successful transition. As we move towards a more digital future, it's essential to ensure that no one is left in the rearview mirror.

Illustration of a phone and a map.

Parking sorted in seconds.

Journeys are simpler with a dedicated space, just for you.

Illustration of a house with a parking space.