Should There Be an App for That? by Casey Jones, CAPP

I’ve spent a good bit of time being unhappy about media reports of a new parking application that helps people fight parking tickets. I write and present on parking technology a fair amount and the idea of an app that helps you beat the system rubs me the wrong way. I want technology to solve parking and transportation problems, not let people dodge their responsibility to use parking systems as they are intended. I don’t want it easier for people to fight legitimate and important parking enforcement efforts, especially because we all know that parking chaos often ensues without the right amount of enforcement. This seems akin to Radar detectors thwarting the efforts of law enforcement to maintain safety on our roadways (minus the possibility of horrific car crashes).

The app, called Fixed, recently received a good bit of attention leading up to its launch in the spring. According to a CNN report, here’s how Fixed works: “When someone gets a ticket, they snap a photo of it on their iPhone and enter the violation code. The Fixed app will tell them what percentage of those types of tickets are usually overturned and then show a list of possible reasons it could be found invalid.” The Fixed team does the legal research and advises the parker on their chances for winning an appeal. If the parker wants to file an appeal, they sign an electronic letter (through Fixed) that is sent to the parking provider. Fixed gets a cut of what the citation would have cost if the parker prevails and nothing if the appeal fails.

Okay, so maybe I’m being a little harsh on the Fixed founders. Maybe they aren’t really promoting lawlessness and maybe just maybe there’s some good that can come from an app that helps people fight parking tickets.

I do a considerable amount of consulting and one area I focus a good bit of time on is a client’s parking enforcement program where I look at citations by type, frequency and location. This often reveals some problem that the client is unaware of like inadequate, confusing and contradictory signage. Sometimes the analysis points to a need to adjust pricing, change how parking permits and credentials are allotted, and make adjustments in parking rules, policies, and approaches to parking fines. Perhaps Fixed and other similar apps can be viewed similarly as a means to helping parking programs become less confusing, more informative, and better positioned to help their patrons and guests locate and pay for parking facilities. Rather than look at this type of technology as a threat, perhaps we need to look at it as a way to improve.