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Business Idea: Mobile Parking Payment System For Pay and Display

Photo: Dont_Panic, stock.xchng

My love for parking lot companies (more on that later) continues… I just watched someone have to park, leave her car in the rain to buy a ticket at the machine. She then had to return to her car to place the ticket, then finally head out to where she is going. I was thinking… there’s gotta be a better way.

This idea centers around a system where people can purchase parking time with their cell phones.

  • People register (usually in advance, though they could through an app or Web site on location)
  • Send a txt with the parking lot number and the time required
  • Their account gets billed
  • They get txt confirmaiton

They could also do it through a mobile Web site or app. But having at least SMS as an option is important since a lot of people still pay for data or don’t have easy access to web browsing/apps. It also help ensure compatibility with just about every phone. Anyone can send a txt. In the case of text messages, they would need to have registered before (on the Web site through their computer at home or work). Or, they could call an 800-number to register.

Since their payment method and vehicle are already registered, and automatically attached to their cell phone number, as soon as it’s in the system and they receive their confirmation, their vehicle is in the list of allowed vehicles.

This would, of course, be targeted to people who park at least occasionally in the same parking lot. To save people from having to register individually though, if the system is available in quite a few parking lots, they register once for all parking lots that use the system.

Another advantage for the parking lot operator is that you could have an app that finds nearby parking spots that use the service. It would help drive vehicles to their lot.

The disadvantage is for security or whoever is monitoring the lot, since they would have to look for a ticket in the window, and if there is none, have a way to check if the license plate is in the database of allowed vehicles.

Revenue would ideally come from the parking lot operators who have an additional service to offer their clients, who have todeal with less collecting/sorting money at the machine, and would hopefully receive extra traffic from the company’s promotion of their lot as part of their network.

Upsells/Advertising could also be offered where the confirmation message says something like “Your time purchase for parking lot number 995 at 121 Main Street is active until 6 am [date]. Park often? We offer monthly parking for $80”

The work would involve:

  • Developing the system (which, interestingly, doesn’t have to be set up with any of the parking lot company’s systems so it could be done from anywhere)
  • Setting up the payment gateway
  • Contacting lot operators to purchase your service
  • Providing lot owners with signs announcing that the service is available there. An 800-number with IVR would be ideal to have people sign up for the service, or it could be done through a secure Web site or app.
  • Providing regular reports and issuing payment to parking lot operators for amounts collected.

Additional Service or Variation:

The system could also be used for operators who do specifically monthly rentals to have customers pay though your system. As many operators are small businesses, collecting payments can be one of the biggest hassles for operators.


As someone could show another number when sending a txt, it would be good to have a way for them to send a password along with the order. Either txting to a number with a password attached. For example, text 55555201 (where 55555 is the number to text to and 201 is their specific password).

Otherwise, the order could be something like:

(parking lot) (time) (password)

So they would txt;

995 1hr 201

Though all these numbers might be confusing, it may be better to ignore everything I said about SMS messages and develop it specifically as an app which can authenticate them and ask specific questions.

Either way, the concept could be interesting and a system that would be well set up may be able to gain some customers in municipal government offices who are looking to replace old style meters with a way to pay by mobile device.

Update: Another way to track the purchases, which would make security’s job easier, is to buy minutes/time for a specific location in the parking lot. This would require numbering each spot, which would work better in some locations than others (many lots don’t have specific, marked spots). But it would be an ideal way for customers to purchase time.

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2 Responses to " Business Idea: Mobile Parking Payment System For Pay and Display "

  1. Thomas says:

    Yup we have been doing this for 6+ years now… Works just fine for the driver.

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