If you're a driver in Singapore, you'll have to deal with parking coupons. Are you the kind of person who keeps a stack of parking coupons in the car? Or do you always forget and have to rush out to your car when you see the "saman" auntie in the distance? Whichever you are, you may find that your way of paying parking fees is about to change forever.
URA and HDB, along with GovTech, have recently developed a mobile phone app for paying parking fees. The steps to pay are simple: enter your vehicle number, enter the carpark you're in, select the duration of your stay, and then pay via credit card. The app was tested from 16 May—16 June 2017, and if successful, could become a real alternative to paper coupons, maybe even eventually replacing them! So what does this mean for us drivers? Is this app really a better alternative to paper coupons? We compare the two methods to bring you the answer.
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One common complaint about the old paper coupons is that drivers forget to buy them. When you're in a rush, you don't want to be rummaging through your glove compartment only to find that you've run out of coupons! But with the new mobile app, there's no need to keep dropping by 7-11 to get stacks of coupons, since all you need is your phone. Plus, the app has a function which allows you to extend your parking duration, so if something crops up and you have to park for longer than expected, you won't have to run back to your vehicle to put out more coupons.
Verdict: Mobile app: 1 Traditional paper: 0. The app saves you the trouble of always needing to buy new coupons, and allows you to easily extend your parking time.
(Photo Credit: Pexels)
You may be surprised to hear that the new app might actually help you save parking costs! Some common coupon practices cost you more money than you might think. For example, many drivers, hoping to save time, buy a lot of coupons at one go, but end up not using them, and the money goes to waste when the coupons expire. The new app will allow you to pay parking fees from wherever you are, so you won't have to worry about stocking up, and can save money on unused coupons.
Another way drivers may waste money is by putting out more coupons than necessary. To avoid having to rush back to the vehicle, drivers may give themselves more buffer time by putting out extra coupons in case they need to park for longer than they expect. A driver who only needs to park for an hour, for example, may put out 3 $0.60 coupons to buy an extra 30 mins of buffer time in case he gets held up by something. But now, this new app will charge per minute instead of per 30 mins, so you'll pay for exactly the amount of time that you park for. Drivers who leave the carpark before their initially stated parking time will actually be refunded for the minutes that they don't use!
Verdict: Mobile app: 2 Traditional paper: 0. The new mobile app will help you save every time you park—no more wastage on expired or unused coupons.
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One thing we all want to know is—how much stricter will the new system be? Will the app be able to send notifications to the "saman officer" when your parking duration ends? Will the authorities be able to track you for parking without paying? Well, from what we know so far, you don't have to worry—your car will not be tracked via GPS to make sure you're paying your fees. How it will work is: when the "saman officer" makes their rounds, they will enter your license plate number into their system, and it will tell them whether or not you have paid your parking fees. This does mean, however, that you won't be able to appeal to the officer by telling them that you're only parking for 10 minutes, or that your clock is slow. The officer can tell exactly how long you've parked for, and at what time you started parking. So it is true that the new system is tighter than the old paper coupon one, but it won't be as extreme as you might think.
Verdict: Mobile app: 2 Traditional Paper: 1. Finally, a point for traditional paper! The mobile app is slightly stricter than the paper coupon method, as it makes checking up on your vehicle easier.
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Some motorists have expressed concern for the older generation of drivers, as not all of them may be able to understand how to use an app to pay parking fees. In this area, paper coupons will probably have an edge. They have been around for quite a while and are easier to understand, so they are more user-friendly than the app. The authorities have mentioned that they are also working on alternatives for those who are not technologically-savvy, but as of now there has not been any news. It is possible for drivers to learn how to use this app of course, but it will definitely be difficult, especially if they are already unfamiliar with smartphones in general.
Verdict: Mobile app: 2 Traditional Paper: 2. The old-fashioned paper coupon is still more user-friendly for all drivers, since not everyone may know how to use a smartphone. The score is tied…
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Finally, how reliable is this new parking app compared to the paper coupons? The paper coupons are definitely reliable as long as you remember to buy them, use them within the expiry date and make sure to weigh them down so they don't fly away. With the date and time written on the coupon in black and white, it's difficult to dispute. The app, however, is another story. First of all, it requires a working Internet connection and smartphone to use. If your broadband encounters problems, or your phone battery dies, you will have no way to pay the proper parking fees and might end up getting fined! Another possible issue that may arise from unstable Internet connection is that your parking fee payment may end up not being processed, or even submitted twice, which will cost you as well.
One more concern that has been voiced is that the app may be hacked, making your personal vehicle and credit card details vulnerable. This is especially since the app is new, and has not been tested on a nationwide scale before. These, of course, are all problems that any online transaction must face, and it is a price to pay for the efficiency of smartphones and the Internet. As far as reliability and safety goes, it's hard to beat straightforward ink and paper.
Verdict: Mobile app: 2 Traditional Paper: 3. The mobile app is a new system which will face several issues with reliability and safety, unlike tried-and-tested paper coupons.
So what's the final verdict?
The mobile app definitely beats paper coupons in terms of convenience and cost. It may be a little bit stricter as it makes it easier to check up on drivers, but this is not a very significant change. For user-friendliness and reliability, however, the old-school coupons still win out. However, these may be issues that can be worked out after some testing and further development. If they can be solved, the added efficiency and costs saved would make the app a much better alternative than paper coupons. All in all, with some work, this new mobile app could make parking fees much simpler, and improve the lives of Singaporean drivers!
You've heard our verdict—what's yours? Are you excited for the new mobile app, or will you miss the old-school paper coupons? Share in the comments below! For more interesting comparisons, and other helpful car articles, download the MotoristSG app at the Apple Appstore or the Android Playstore today!