As anybody who lives in or near a major city knows, parking tickets can be a massive and seemingly unavoidable headache. However diligent one is, it seems there's always a confusingly-worded sign or aggressive meter maid waiting to spoil your day. Even if a ticket is unjustified, fighting it can turn into a whole new ordeal.
It's with this bitter pain point in mind that a handful of startups are building mobile apps to help drivers combat parking tickets and the city parking enforcement agencies that dole them out. Eff the PPA is one such app, which took home the top prize recently at Philly Startup Weekend, a hackathon during which small teams launch a startup in 54 hours.
Eff the PPA, whose name refers to the notoriously aggressive Philadelphia Parking Authority, first helps users avoid getting parking tickets and then, failing that, gives them the tools necessary to fight them.
The app starts by finding you a parking spot. Its map gives block-by-block details about where it's okay to park and for how long. This is a huge deal for drivers, who have enough to focus their attention on while navigating busy city streets without trying to find and decipher the signs that identify each block's unique parking rules. It also shows you where parking garages are located and how much each one costs.
Once parked, you can enter how much time is left on your meter into the app and set it to notify you by text, email, push notification or phone call within time intervals of your choosing. It's similar to functionality we've seen in other apps like iCarPark, iParked and AutoPark, among others.
If you end up with a parking ticket anyway, the Eff the PPA app takes things a step further by letting you snap photos as evidence and submit a complaint directly to a local attorney who can help fight the ticket in traffic court, assuming you have a solid case. iTicketBust is an app that purports to do the same thing for drivers based in California, although it doesn't have the most generous user reviews in iTunes.
The team that conceived and prototyped the Eff the PPA app is now set to enter the early stages of development. They've even worked in a business model that they say can generate $500,000 in annual revenue. A clickable prototype of the iPhone app is available on their blog.
Empowering Citizens With Mobile Technology
This is, of course, only one example of a mobile application that can be used to help citizens not only get around their city, but also stand up to powerful entities like the city parking agencies. Crucially, it does so in a way that wasn't possible before everybody had tiny, powerful computers in their pockets.
In the case of parking enforcement, it's often no mistake that the regulations are not easy to decipher and that tickets are sometimes given out unjustifiably. Parking tickets are a huge source of revenue for many city governments, so they're not necessarily likely to patch up any flaws in the system solely for the benefit of citizens.
Once completed, the Eff the PPA app will only be immediately useful to Philadelphians, but we can see its all-in-one ticket-fighting model carried over into other cities pretty easily.
Lead photo by Taber Andrew Bain.