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Personal parking meters to be introduced

By Ashaba K Abdul Basti



A high-tech personal parking meter that drivers can operate inside their cars was unveiled Saturday by Valtrans, a subsidiary of Dubai’s Al Habtoor Transportation Systems. The hand-held Piaf device – launched for the first time in the Middle East – enables motorists to pay parking fees without having to walk to a machine and insert loose change.


A pre-paid card is inserted into the device, which is placed on the vehicle’s dashboard with its display screen facing the windshield. The device automatically deducts hourly parking fees until the owner returns and switches it off. Payment information is sent wirelessly to the car park operator’s computers. Parking inspectors can check whether or not a pre-paid card is valid by inspecting the device’s screen.


Valtrans has signed a Dh10 million renewable three-year contract with manufacturer DXP France and will be the system’s official distributor in all Gulf Co-operation Council countries.


A committee at the Parking Department of Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority is studying the operation of the device to determine how it can be incorporated into the city’s mainstream parking system.


“This is the latest technological innovation in parking payment methods,” said Mansoor Al Habtoor, Managing Director of Valtrans. “Parking officials at the RTA are happy with the system and are currently studying ways of implementing it.”


The unit is expected to be introduced at the beginning summer this year to save motorists the inconvenience of walking to a parking meter or looking for change in the heat. Al Habtoor said the price of the device has not been fixed but would be between Dh150 and Dh250. Market research revealed that 68 per cent of motorists favoured a Dh200 price tag.


“We are working with the RTA to come up with a feasible pricing mechanism that will be fair to all categories of motorist,” added Al Habtoor. “Motorists will have the choice of either buying the Piaf device or renting it after paying a refundable deposit equivalent to its cost.”


The system is being marketed in other emirates and Gulf states but is expected to be launched in Dubai first. Valtrans plans to roll out more than 100,000 of the devices in the first year of operation in Dubai alone. The same unit can be used in any city that operates the system.


The RTA is planning to implement a mobile phone parking payment scheme early this year. However Imad Alameddine, General Manager of Valtrans, said the Piaf device would not compete with the mobile service but would complement other payment methods.


“The system is already used in 84 cities in Europe including ones in France, Sweden, Norway and Belgium,” he added.


“Some cities have replaced roadside meters and the mobile phone system with Piaf.” And he said the device could also reduce the RTA’s bill for repairing and maintaining older parking machines, replacing paper reels and collecting cash.