Cashless payments are on the rise. Nationally, just 30% of transactions are cash, down from 33% in 2015.1 In terms of dollars, cash transactions represent just 9% of total payments. Parking payments, in particular, largely mirror this trend. Paying parking meters, residential permits, or citations online or via an app is just easier.
While cashless payments offer convenience to many, our embrace of disruption threatens to exclude the most marginalized customers. About 25% of U.S. households are unbanked or underbanked, largely because they don’t have enough money to keep an account open, don’t trust banking institutions, or have been impacted by bank closings in their communities (more branches are closed than opened in lower-income areas).
For the unbanked and underbanked, financial exclusion creates disparity. For instance, the unbanked have less disposable income due to exorbitant check cashing fees, astronomical interest rates from pay day loans, and excessive costs traveling to and from inconveniently located payment centers.
Fortunately, inclusionary-minded parking and public sector organizations are working to address this problem.
A disproportionate number of households in Arizona are unbanked or underbanked, and the Arizona Administrative Office of the Courts is implementing a program to improve access and extend payment opportunities for parking and other tickets. The Administrative Office of the Courts has partnered with Conduent and PayNearMe to provide motorists and others with remote cash payment options.
Parking and other tickets can now be paid real-time for a number of courts using cash at retail locations like 7-Eleven, CVS, and Family Dollars Stores. These locations are typically less than four miles away as compared to the centralized cash payment location which is on average 61 miles away from the home of someone receiving a citation. While there is a small fee to use PayNearMe (typically $2.99), it represents a significant cost savings compared to the average cost for gas ($6), parking, potential late penalties, and risk of another parking ticket. Over the next several weeks, the program will be expanded to the remaining courts.
Offering non-traditional services like cash payments to marginalized communities is an important step to helping ensure equality in access, improved convenience, and reduced costs to comply. Still, there are a number of ways to help those living in marginalized communities, including parking ticket payment plans, addressing predatory enforcement, and reviewing fine and penalty structures. More than ever, cities have opportunities to use technology to offer pathways to compliance, thereby improving revenue and reducing administrative costs, as opposed to just creating disruption.
1 The 2018 report on the Diary of Consumer Payment Choice (DCPC)