From tearing tabs to tapping apps – a history of parking in Singapore
Ask any motorists what’s their least favourite part of driving. Chances are, parking is near the top of that list. The circling around looking for empty spaces. Ending up parking somewhere really far from your destination. Forgetting where exactly you parked in the cavernous multi storey basement carpark.
Still, at least paying for parking nowadays is pretty convenient, done either automatically through electronic parking gantries or digitally through your mobile device. Let’s take a (road) trip down memory lane to check out how parking systems have evolved in Singapore through the decades.
Short on time? Catch this video to see how parking in Singapore evolved over the years.
Pre-1980s – Parking attendants galore
Information about parking systems before the 1980s is sketchy, probably because there wasn’t much thought put into them and not much innovation going on.
What we do know is that many carparks had parking attendants manning them, noting the times of arrivals and departures of vehicles entering, and collecting the requisite parking fees. Motorists would no doubt be fumbling with notes and coins to pay for their parking while exiting the carpark.
Parking attendants were still prevalent until at least 1982, when the Auditor-General’s Office recommended that productivity could be boosted and savings made by reducing the number of parking attendants. How could this be done? By expanding the coupon parking system of course, something we’ll discuss next.
1980s – Rise of the coupon
In 1980, the parking coupon was introduced, putting the onus of noting the time and duration of parking on drivers themselves. For the first iteration of parking coupons, drivers had to shade the date, time and location of their parking spot on the parking coupon and place them visibly on the dashboard in order to pay for their parking.
Soon after, the coupons were changed to a punch-and-tear tabs design to help improve the convenience of drivers. The parking coupons were colourful and they represented the various denominations ranging from 50cents to 4 dollars.
During the first year that coupons were used, HDB and URA carparks used different sets of coupons, but the coupons were made interchangeable in 1981 after frustrated motorists complained.
While the coupon system worked well and would go on to serve Singapore for four decades, it had its flaws. For one thing, drivers had to estimate the duration that they would be parking for and place the corresponding amount of coupons. If they underestimated the time needed, they would have to head back to the car just to place more coupons.
And of course some sneaky drivers would try to cheat the system by folding the tabs on the coupon instead of tearing them off completely so that they can reuse it
The coupon system also gave rise to certain quintessentially Singaporean scenes, such as the coffeeshop assistants bellowing “Summon aunty lai liao (here comes the summons attendant)”, prompting a mad dash of patrons back to their cars to place coupons.
2000s – Electronic parking
The drive to replace the parking coupon began in 2004 with the implementation of the Electronic Parking System (EPS) at some HDB carparks. Electronic gantries were placed at the carpark entrances and exits, with the gantries automatically logging the time when the vehicle entered. When the vehicle wants to exit, the parking fee is deducted from the cash card in the in-vehicle unit before the gantry is raised.
As an increasing number of HDB carparks were brought into the system, HDB was able to release an app in 2014 showing real-time information about available lots in EPS HDB carparks.
2018 – Parking.sg is born
But for parking at carparks without the electronic gantries. Coupons continued to rule the day until 2018, when the Parking.sg app was rolled out as part of Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative.
Where in the past you would have to calculate the number of parking coupons needed for your parking session, the app will automatically calculate the charges after you key in your vehicle number, the carpark you are parking at, and the parking duration.
The app will also send a notification to alert drivers 10 minutes before their parking session expires and give them the option to extend their parking duration.
And if motorists end their parking session early, a refund on a per minute basis is given. By 2019, more than 550,000 unique vehicles and more than 60 per cent of cars had used Parking.sg, over 15 million parking sessions handled by the app.
The number of parking coupon booklets sold also fell dramatically, with 50,000 sold in Dec 2018, less than one-third of 180,000 sold monthly in Oct 2017.
Making a difference in everyday living
By going from tearing to tapping, parking is now much more convenient. No more disrupting your meeting to walk back to the car just to place more coupons. No need to disrupt your coffeeshop lunch because the parking warden has shown up. And no need to keep a stack of coupons handy and fiddle with them every time you want to park.
Initiatives like Parking.sg are what being a Smart Nation is about – improving the lives of citizens in small ways that nonetheless make a tangible difference.https://www.tech.gov.sg/media/technews/history-of-parking