from the apps-apps-apps dept
There's an app for just about everything it seems, including apps for parking tickets, apparently. One of these apps, called Fixed, is specifically designed to do several things with parking and/or traffic tickets. When you get a ticket, you take a picture of it with your camera on your phone. From there, the app allows you to automate the process of paying the ticket or disputing it. Specifically, by scanning the picture of the ticket you've taken, the app will automatically scan the ticket for common mistakes that are made that might invalidate the ticket entirely, at which point you can use the app to lodge your dispute. Sounds incredibly useful, right?
Well, three California cities think it's so useful that they've done everything in their power to block people from using it to dispute or pay their tickets, because that's apparently easier than getting officers to simply write tickets correctly.
The startup has had issues with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) for some time. The agency was never all that receptive to the service, and the way it automated the ticket contesting process for locals. Using its app, Fixed customers could snap a photo of their parking ticket using their phone’s camera, and then Fixed would check against a variety of common errors before writing a customized letter to the city on the user’s behalf. The app also cleverly tapped into Google Street View to check to see if the city had the proper signage in place in the area a ticket was received. However, even when customers didn’t beat their ticket, the app could help automate the payment without having to use a city’s often outdated website.Keep it classy, San Francisco. It turns out that Los Angeles and Oakland all behaved similarly with respect to Fixed, harrassing and blocking the app and the people using it to the point where the makers of the app simply shut down the parking ticket part of the software in those three cities. This despite the app successfully contesting something like a third of the tickets that users had chosen to dispute using it. Drink that in for a moment. A sizeable percentage of parking tickets were found to have errors on them using this app and, rather than address this by having tickets be properly filled out, the cities in question decided instead to keep people from using the app to contest these error-ridden tickets. It's hard to imagine how a city might be able to display more contempt for its own citizens than this.
Of course, the cities haven’t been welcoming to an app that was aimed at helping locals not pay their tickets by automating the process of jumping through legal loopholes. When Fixed began faxing its submissions to SFMTA last year, the agency emailed the startup to stop using their fax machine. When Fixed pointed out that it was legal to do so, the agency simply shut off their fax.
And what's really crazy about this? The app had as much to do with getting people to pay their valid tickets on time as it did contesting the incorrectly filled out tickets.
“It’s unfortunate that the SFMTA decided to block our service. Over 60,000 parking tickets had been submitted to Fixed. Not only were we helping people beat their unfair parking tickets, but the alerts on our app were helping people pay their parking fines on time and avoid late fees,” [Founder David Hegarty] continues. “Parking Ticket Fines account for 15% of the SFMTA operating budget, and it looks like they objected to us providing some accountability to their process,” Hegarty adds.Hmm, it's almost like the city knows it's collecting money it might not deserve and doesn't want to let a simple piece of technology stop that gravy train...