Man Creates Useful City Parking iPhone App… And City Doesn't Get Upset

from the yes,-dog-bites-man dept

It’s really tragic that this even seems like it’s worth a post at all, but we’ve seen so many ridiculous stories of people creating cool and useful apps for their cities or universities — only to have officials freak out that outsiders are somehow violating intellectual property laws, and only official city/university apps should be allowed. So, when we heard about a guy in Elgin, Illinois who created a simple iPhone app to help people avoid parking tickets, it just felt likely that city officials would be upset about it. But… instead, they actually seem happy about it:

He just start selling his Elgin Parking iPhone application last week, but already city officials are commending him. For a download price of $1.99, it helps people comply with the city’s odd/even parking law.

Hopefully, this means that common sense is making a bit of a comeback. I half expected officials to either be upset that he was “making money” by selling an app that helped people avoid parking tickets, or be upset that, with fewer parking tickets to give out, they’d have less revenue — but it’s great to see the city endorsing this sort of thing, where a citizen is free to help make life better for others in the city. And… since people sometimes complain that too many of the stories on Techdirt are negative, it seemed worth a post to give kudos to Elgin for not doing the stupid things that many other cities have done. In this day and age, that’s progress.

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Comments on “Man Creates Useful City Parking iPhone App… And City Doesn't Get Upset”

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23 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

You know where I live there is a two hour parking limit around the business buildings and that parking limit seems to apply to people who work in those buildings as well(and the businesses have no private property to park on). Fortunately it never gets enforced, if it did I suspect businesses would then complain and make the city remove the two hour limit. It’s funny because before the signs were instated no one ever had parking problems, the island in the blvd for people to park on (that also has the signs now but didn’t before) was almost always empty and the same thing is true today. The two hour limits haven’t changed anything and people who work in the area pretty much park there as long as they want.

The city can give permits that you can put on your windshield to indicate you work in the area and they will exempt you from a ticket but it’s not even used for the most part since the law is so unenforced. It’s a silly law anyways, not sure why those signs were put up one day.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Parking

A few years back the city of Austin was frustrated with a mentally ill homeless guy who saw it as his moral duty to go around feeding the parking meters so that no car would be in violation. (Who knows where he was getting all the quarters.) It got to the point where some days the city was making zero revenue from parking meters in the downtown area. But there was no law against what he was doing so the cops couldn’t stop him. Finally the city passed a new ordinance that made it an administrative offense for anyone but the owner of the vehicle in the parking spot to pay the meter.

Jaseinatl says:

In Some Places It Would Be Obstruction of Justice

and could wind you up in jail. If you pay someone’s parking meter, it’s obstruction of justice and you can get fined and/or have criminal charges to face simply for being generous. I figured the city would take this convoluted approach to stopping him by claiming he was obstructing justice and impeding city income. It’s nice to read a story with a happy storyline and a positive ending. Thanks.

jase

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: In Some Places It Would Be Obstruction of Justice

> If you pay someone’s parking meter, it’s obstruction
> of justice

I’d love to hear the prosecutor try and argue that feeding a parking meter meets the elements of obstruction. All 50 states use the same Model Penal Code definition of obstruction and one of the elements of the offense is that the actions of the defendant must block or hinder the official investigation of an ongoing criminal offense.

No city I know of launches official investigations into parking violations. Nor is a parking violation even a criminal offense in the first place. Such a scenario fails to meet the elements of obstruction on a variety of levels.

There’s no logical or legal way that a prosecutor could make a case for obstruction against someone merely for preventing a parking violation from taking place.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: In Some Places It Would Be Obstruction of Justice

> I figured the city would take this convoluted
> approach to stopping him by claiming he was
> obstructing justice and impeding city income.

They’d still fail because unlike feeding a meter, this app is considered speech under the 1st Amendment and in a conflict between his right to speak and the city’s right to make a buck, the city loses.

Back when I was in college at UT-Austin, there was a notorious speed trap on I-35 between Austin and Georgetown. One day a group of students who had all gotten tickets there decided to do something about it. They made up a bunch of signs that said “SLOW DOWN! POLICE SPEED TRAP ONE MILE AHEAD” and positioned themselves a mile north of where the cops where trolling for speeders.

Well, you can guess what happened. The cops were none too pleased about it and ended up arresting them for “disorderly conduct” and “hindering the administration of justice”.

A local activist attorney took on their case free of charge and it ended up going all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, which ruled that the police violated the students’ 1st Amendment right to free speech under the Texas Constitution; that merely standing on the side of the road with signs is in no way “disorderly” and that regardless, it could never be a crime for one citizen to encourage another citizen to obey the law.

byteme says:

In Charlotte, NC, parking tickets are administered by a third party company for the city. Since this would be directly interfering with their profits, you can bet that a lawsuit would be forthcoming if someone were to do the same thing here.

Increased revenue is the sole reason that parking meters were made to accept only 1-2 hours worth of payment at a time. Who can get anything done in downtown Charlotte in that amount of time? You spend all day running back to feed the meter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Courts around here tend to have very short parking meter limits around the area, like 30 minutes maybe? Because they know that people who go to court will tend to take a LONG time they want to try and extort as much money from you as they can. There are also many places where they make the do not park here sign as hard to find as they legally can to give more tickets. Or you can go pay big bucks to go to a parking service venue. The whole thing is a scam.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Law

> Since this would be directly interfering with
> their profits, you can bet that a lawsuit would
> be forthcoming if someone were to do the same
> thing here.

Based on what legal theory? Last I checked, “we want more money” isn’t a valid cause of action.

The company would have to put forth a valid legal theory that not only argued that they are somehow fundamentally entitled to a citizenry that continually violates the law, but that their entitlement somehow also trumps this programmer’s 1st Amendment rights to free expression under both the US and the Illinois Constitutions.

I’ve been a lawyer for almost 20 years and I can’t think of any such cause of action that would survive a judge’s laugh test.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Law

“Based on what legal theory?”

You missed the OP.

“Last I checked, “we want more money” isn’t a valid cause of action.”

Tell that to the RIAA and the many other extortionists who have been filing lawsuits for bogus reasons.

“The company would have to put forth a valid legal theory that not only argued that they are somehow fundamentally entitled to a citizenry that continually violates the law, but that their entitlement somehow also trumps this programmer’s 1st Amendment rights to free expression under both the US and the Illinois Constitutions.”

It doesn’t matter, the legal potential legal fees could probably still prevent someone from creating or continuing such an app.

“I’ve been a lawyer for almost 20 years”

and if you still haven’t realized how messed up our legal system is or if you are actually defending our legal system you are either very very stupid or you are dishonest and you are a perfect example of what’s wrong with this world.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Law

> and if you still haven’t realized how messed up our legal system
> is or if you are actually defending our legal system you are either
> very very stupid or you are dishonest and you are a perfect example
> of what’s wrong with this world.

Wow. I was actually *criticizing* the idea that some company could sue by claiming that they own the parking spot information in Charlotte and/or any attempt to help people obey the law violates their business model.

I was saying that’s ridiculous. But you seem to think taking such a position makes me a “perfect example of what’s wrong with this world”.

You apparently prefer a world where government officials and corporations can use copyright to squash anything they don’t like.

Behold the irony, dipshit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Law

“Based on what legal theory?”

In the OP, just to spell it out for you.

“but we’ve seen so many ridiculous stories of people creating cool and useful apps for their cities or universities — only to have officials freak out that outsiders are somehow violating intellectual property laws”

“Last I checked, “we want more money” isn’t a valid cause of action.”

Last I checked even if it isn’t, it doesn’t matter.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Law

> only to have officials freak out that outsiders are somehow
> violating intellectual property laws

The idea that some private company contracted to run the parking meters is going to file a suit claiming they have the copyright on the city’s parking spaces is nonsense. As I said, wouldn’t pass the judge’s laugh test (just to spell it out for you).

I could have won summary judgment on that case my first semester of law school.

iphone apps (user link) says:

I would think the city would actually be trying to sell an app like this themselves. Where I live there is also a weird odd/even rule that I can never seem to stay on top off (is it monthly, bi-monthly, seasonally?) An app like this would be a nice way to make a few bucks and actually help people avoid tickets, instead of tricking them into getting them like so many towns seem to do..

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