Unpaid Parking Tickets and Lost Revenue for Cities

Diagonal City Hall Sign

It seems like it should a simple process: you receive a parking ticket, you pay it, and the city collects the amount, along with whatever fines you may have incurred. However, there are many, many people who receive a parking ticket, and never pay it. What happens then?

The answer varies depending on the city in question, and the task of collecting unpaid parking tickets isn’t an easy one for any city. Some cities place a “boot” on a car after a certain number of violations, requiring the parker to pay the balance on their debt before it can be removed. Some cities issue tow warrants – or even arrest warrants – to encourage parkers to pay their dues. But there are times these policies can’t work. What if the parker was from out-of-state? The ticket then becomes exponentially more difficult for the city to collect, as it won’t have the opportunity to boot the car or tow it. This is especially troublesome in cities with high tourism rates, like New York City, which simply writes off a large portion of its uncollected debt, assuming it never be able to recover the money.

This is an excerpt from the 2014 NYC Financial Report. That is $404m that the city has written off as unable to collect!

Some parkers with exceptionally high fines simply abandon the vehicle, assuming the debt outweighs the value of the car. In Portland, a student at Portland State University experienced just this.

“The car wasn’t even worth the amount I owed in parking fines, so I just left it there, figuring the city would sell the car, pay off the tickets and that would be that.”

However, the solution isn’t that easy for the city, which may not have the means to sell a vehicle to clear the debt of unpaid parking tickets.

Some cities, like Harrisburg, PA, have become creative in their solutions. Because the city relies on archaic methods of collecting their unpaid parking tickets, it has accrued $1.25 million in unpaid parking tickets so far this year, and is on pace to double that number by the end of the year. This amounts to 20,000 unpaid parking tickets that the city will be unable to collect. The city’s mayor has proposed setting up a unique “parking court” system, similar to the way many cities handle traffic tickets, to force the hand of violators.

Of course, the lack of revenue from parking tickets can prove problematic for many cities, which rely on the money from parkers to fund public schools or infrastructure improvements. This has caused city officials and taxpayers alike to speak up, and demand a better way to ensure the city’s money is collected.

In 2013, the International Parking Institute conducted a study amongst parking industry professionals, such as city parking officials, to find out how to solve problems like these. Not surprisingly, 59% of respondents cited that “a move toward innovative technologies to improve parking access control and payment automation,” would improve situations like these. In governments where payments are often still processed with some degree of manual, human involvement, it’s not surprising that some tickets are never tracked down.

It seems logical for city’s to pursue an electronic means of both creating an easier payment process for the customer, and reducing time-to-collection for themselves. Boston has been quick to embrace a digital solution, and has entertained many mobile solutions which assist both the parker and the city in parking. Apps like ParkBoston offer citizens the ability to feed the parking meter with their phone and a credit card, plus one exciting benefit that is uniquely digital: the ability to re-up your time without having to go back to your car.

The Quickit app would offer a similar solution. By allowing those who have just received a parking ticket to scan the ticket into their phone immediately upon receiving it, and setting an option to receive notifications about the upcoming due dates, parkers won’t have the option to use the excuse “out of sight, out of mind”. The benefits are afforded to both the city as well as the customer, who can avoid late fees by having their device remind them of the ticket.

With the success of mobile wallet solutions like ApplePay and Android Pay, it is clear that society is becoming more apt to find convenient payment solutions. Doesn’t it seem logical that the parking industry should follow suit?

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Push Notifications: The Future of the Mobile App?

Close up white smart watch

The push notification has become more prevalent than ever. From smart watches, which put a notification right on your wrist, to smart cars, which enable notifications in the car’s dashboard, we have more and more ways these days to receive information.

At one point in time, a company would have to email you – or even snail-mail you – for you to receive updated news or information about their business or services. It was Apple with the iPhone in 2009 that developed the idea of the “push” notification. Previously, phone applications relied on the “pull” notification, which required you, the user, to access the app yourself to receive information.

What is a push notification? Push notifications are a little different depending on whether you are using an Android phone or an iPhone. On an iPhone, the application’s server sends a notice to the Apple Push Notification service, which then forwards the message to the user’s phone. On an Android device, the process works similarly, but uses Android Cloud to Device Messaging. A push notification is then indicated on the user’s phone, either with a bubble above the app’s icon or with a notice in the top frame of the screen. Sometimes they can also be sent via SMS or text services, as well.

The push notification can be especially handy to remind yourself of an upcoming appointment or meeting. As devices get smarter and begin to interact more with each other, the possibilities are even greater. Imagine, for instance, a “smart” car that is connected to it’s own service records, and can deliver a push notification in your vehicle as a notice that is it due for service – or perhaps that it has already scheduled an appointment for service.

Push notifications simplify our life through technology. Quickit uses the push notification after you have scanned your ticket with the app. After you have paid your ticket, you will receive a push notification to your phone indicating when your payment has been received by the city or university. Or, if you can’t pay your ticket right away, opt-in to receive a push notification on your phone letting you know that the due date for the ticket is coming up. Using the convenience of the push notification could keep you from incurring an additional late fee on your parking ticket.

However, there is the possibility that as more applications begin to use push notifications to reach their users, we could experience “notification fatigue”. Thankfully many apps, including Quickit, will allow you to opt-out of receiving notifications if your phone or watch is getting a little too crowded.

Eventually, it may be possible that some apps exist entirely in the “notification” realm, without the need for you to go to the app to see status updates at all! So far, we have been accustomed to having an interface within an application that allows us to see the functions of the app. However, as it becomes easier to send and receive notifications, the idea of an app interface may disappear altogether. If Drupal founder Dries Buytaert thinks so, this is an idea worth looking at:

The current Web is “pull-based,” meaning we visit websites or download mobile applications. The future of the Web is “push-based,” meaning the Web will be coming to us. In the next 10 years, we will witness a transformation from a pull-based Web to a push-based Web. When this “Big Reverse” is complete, the Web will disappear into the background much like our electricity or water supply.

In the future, content, products and services will find you, rather than you having to find them. Puma will let us know to replace our shoes and Marriott will automatically present you room options if you missed your connecting flight. Instead of visiting a website, we will proactively be notified of what is relevant and asked to take action.

No matter the possibilities, there is no denying the usefulness of this latest development in tech. After all, who wouldn’t want to save money with the help of their smartphone?

Using Technology to Advance the Parking Industry

asian woman use smart phone

Our world looks a lot different than it did fifteen, or even ten, years ago. The advent of smartphones has put a computer in the hands of almost everyone these days, allowing for a greater access to information, as well as easing the way we go about a lot of our daily activities.

It seems natural to embrace new technology to be able to make our days easier, but often, other motives get in the way. For instance, take a look at the ongoing debate between the Philadelphia Parking Authority and Philadephia’s mayor’s administration.

The Parking Authority is interested in adopted a pay-by-smartphone app to allow its citizens to select and pay for a spot from their phone. Services like this exist around the country, one of the most popular of which being a mobile app provided by Parkmobile. However, they have been met with opposition by the city’s mayoral administration, who argues that the revenue generated by overdue parking tickets is a major source of funding for the city’s public schools. Concerned that by easing citizens’ ability to pay for their parking space upon parking, schools will lose the ability to generate money they need. Last year, the city cited, the amount of money awarded to Philadelphia’s schools as a result of parking tickets was $9.7 billion.

“This is innovation.  It’s about making it easier to pay the meter.”

– Parking Authority executive director Vince Fenerty

It is an interesting conundrum for mobile developers, such as Quickit, who seek to both ease the ability to pay for parking and bring additional revenue to the city. Citizens of Philadelphia argue that the city has a responsibility to allow parkers to pay for parking easily, and that an increase in the initial parking cost might alleviate the problem.

For now, the city’s mayoral administration has asked the Parking Authority to run a revenue analysis to determine the financial hit to the city. But the moral questions lingers: is it right for a city to expect revenue from overdue parking tickets? Should parkers have a right to pay the meter easily?

Savannah Seeks to Reassess Downtown Parking

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It is no secret that parking can be tricky in downtown Savannah. For a city planned and  built over 250 years ago, it is easy to understand how the modern load of cars that the streets handle today could be cumbersome. Over the city’s history, the problem of where to park your car has been addressed and readdressed; by building parking garages, tearing them down, and sometimes starting whole city blocks over again.

Now, it is time look at the problem again. The City of Savannah plans to take a better look at how it handles parking in the month of April. A new study by the name of “Parking Matters” aims to collect the opinions of those who park on the city’s streets to reevaluate things like “when parking should be enforced, how much parking should cost, and whether to create alternatives, such as park-and-ride systems to reduce the need for parking”. The study encompasses an online survey geared towards collecting opinions of the public. Savannah parkers are also invited to attend an open house with the city on April 14th to voice their opinions about the problems, the study, and the solutions.

The city is beginning to look at technological solutions to make things easier on Savannah tourists and residents when parking downtown. Some solutions suggested include the ability to search for open parking spots on your mobile device.

Thankfully for Savannah parkers, the city has already been open to one technological solution: the Quickit mobile app. Recently, the Quickit team visited city officials to talk about the possibility of using the Quickit app to allow residents and tourists of Savannah to use their smartphones to pay their parking tickets – quickly and easily. The app would use a barcode on the city’s parking tickets to scan and retrieve the parkers’ info. This allows the parker to pay their ticket without ever leaving the parking spot!

Ideally, this solution will offer residents and tourists an easy way to avoid further penalties, and will also allow the city to quickly receive payment without the added labor of having to locate the person having received the ticket and collect payment via check.

Seeing the concept work effectively in other cities around the United States, the Quickit app hopes to revolutionize cities’ parking systems: one parking ticket at a time.