In the fiscal year 2011-2012, San Francisco collected more than $83 million in parking-ticket revenue—and that was before it installed 1,300 additional parking meters in the city, creating more opportunities for officials to ticket drivers.
David Hegarty doesn’t need to hear any of this. The entrepreneur behind the new parking app Fixed knows from experience. One morning after paying four tickets, he returned to his car only to find two more. “I knew they had been erroneously issued,” he said.
After conducting research and learning how to contest the tickets, Hegarty submitted appeals on both. They were dismissed, so he began contesting all his citations, winning often. Figuring he wasn’t the only San Franciscan irritated by the fines, he collaborated with startup veterans David Sanghera and DJ Burdick to develop an app that helps drivers fight their parking tickets.
Still in beta testing and limited to San Francisco, Fixed works when motorists, discovering a ticket they believe was unfairly issued, take a photo of it using the app and then type in the violation number. The app searches for that number, tells the driver the probability of having it dismissed, and recommends more photos be taken to gather proof.
For instance, if the ticket was for a car that remained parked when it should’ve been moved for a street-cleaning period, Fixed might nudge the motorist to take a photo of a street-cleaning sign — perhaps it’s been defaced or is missing from its pole. Or perhaps a driver was issued a “red curb” violation; Fixed may suggest that faded red paint be photographed.
The app then pairs such evidence with supplemental data, such as when the curb was supposed to be repainted or, if a motorist received a “wheels not curbed” citation, whether the street in question is actually steep enough to warrant such a ticket. Fixed then generates a letter that contests the citation, asks the user to sign the letter digitally, and mails it on the driver’s behalf. The app takes care of any correspondence received from the court afterward.
If the app is successful in its appeal, the user pays it 25 percent of what the ticket would have cost. If it fails, then the motorist pays the ticket; Fixed receives nothing.
With up to 50 percent of tickets dismissed when fought in court, Fixed stands to gain a healthy profit from its efforts. The sign-up list for the service filled up almost as soon as the site launched, and others continue to add themselves to Fixed’s waiting list. Hegarty says he’s already fielding emails from L.A. drivers desperate to have the service, and plans to introduce it to the country’s top 100 cities.