Parking in London

Oyster card readerFollowing on from a conversation I had with a friend the other day, I thought I’d mention this idea here.

I’m sure it has been proposed before, but why aren’t London parking meters made a part of the Oyster network? The advantages would appear to be legion:

1. Per minute billing would encourage people to vacate the space as quickly a possible.

2. It could be easily integrated with residential parking passes (just as Oyster is already used for complementary travel).

3. Traffic wardens would have less of an incentive to hover around parking meters waiting to pounce on anyone who outstayed their welcome.

4. Instead of issuing fines, you could just have an automatic billing system whereby the first hour cost X per minute while after that it went up to 10X per minute – people couldn’t use the network until they’d cleared any backlog on their card.

5. It would encourage motorists to acquire Oyster cards – and thus make greater use of public transport.

There are obviously civil liberty concerns about the being able to use the system to track people’s movements, but those concerns apply to the Oyster system anyway. They are solvable, by scrapping the RIPA for example. Either way, London is the most CCTV riddled city in the country.

It seems to me it would offer tangible benefits to the motorist, while encouraging efficient use of parking space at the same time. What are the disadvantages?


  1. There is one simple reason why it hasn’t been proposed before. The London boroughs still control parking in their patches and would be loath to give Transport for London (and thus the Mayor of London) any control/say in their parking regimes.

    The whole issue of parking charges, hours, ease of payment etc is a regular bone of contention in London between the Mayor, TfL and the boroughs – and one that could quite easily be sorted if a Mayor and boroughs had a more positive engagement with each other. I know a man who could help that process……

  2. Plus, the whole debacle of having to have enough of the right change, before you set off, to use a parking meter is enough to put anybody off the idea of trying to drive in London and use one (although I did notice the ones on Tottenham Court Rd have moved over to taking cards which is very handy).

    But generally, speaking as a Prius driver who is incrediably smug that she doesn’t have to pay CC and therefore considers the zone as slightly more hers than anybody else’s, I think it sounds a very good idea!

  3. As they stand, Oyster Cards don’t necessarily allow the authorities to track one’s movements, many of us choose to have unregistered cards for this reason. (personally I only ever top mine up with cash – I’m particularly paranoid about that sort of thing)

    I suppose it could still work apart from the automatic fining business. What happens to those who drive in occasionally from outside London?

  4. To answer your question, they would pay with cash as they do currently. However, as with Oyster transport, they would pay more proportionately.

    On the plus side, they would probably be able to take advantage of the fact that with the new system it would be a lot less profitable for traffic wardens to hang around parking spaces and pounce the second someone goes over time. It’s a bit like a vaccination programme – some people could take advantage. On the other hand, if too many people started to do that then the traffic wardens would undoubtedly go back to their old tricks again.

  5. I know that its not directly related to this topic but there is now a website that maps the location, tarrifs and restrictions of all of the parking meters, car parks, motorcycle and disabled bays in Central London. It’s called and you can also access it via your mobile phone.



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