No one likes getting a parking ticket or a citation for a traffic violation in general. The penalties for parking tickets and traffic violations are often amplified in bigger cities, where parking is a scarce resource and often expensive. This forces people to risk getting a ticket by parking in areas where it is unclear whether or not it is legal to park there. The mobile app Fixed, which allows you to fight parking tickets and other traffic violations, has been facing backlash from major cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.
Fixed works when a person uploads their traffic violation to the app, contesting the ticket on the user’s behalf. The app also uses Google Street View to check if the proper signage was in place where the traffic violation occurred. The service was founded in 2013 and currently claims a 90% success rate in fighting parking tickets. They charge a base fee of $150, which is significantly less than what someone would pay for a parking ticket, along with added court fees.
The first city the app was available in, San Francisco, had a less than stellar relationship with the startup. Fixed’s founder, David Hegarty, is no stranger to parking citations himself, and sought an easier way to fix the problem of dubious parking violations. “People don’t think it’s fair,” he said. “As humans, that’s one of the most emotive things—the belief that something isn’t fair. I think it’s right that people have a voice.”
One of the reasons the SFMTA fought the startup is because parking tickets bring in $88 million a year in revenue. Hegarty also noted that only five percent of parking tickets in San Francisco are ever contested in court, which means that if more people start using the app, that $88 million figure could shrink to a mere fraction of what it once was.
“I’d be curious to know how many people ask for help, get the information, then think, ‘Well, yeah, I’m guilty,'” Hegarty said. “Just from pure experience, most people really feel outraged, but they don’t know all the rules,” he added, saying that many drivers are still unaware of their city’s parking codes, which can be complex in large cities.
SFMTA started blocking Fixed from accessing them via fax. When Fixed pointed out that their tactic of fighting parking tickets was legal, the SFMTA simply shut off their fax machine and proceeded to block them from their ticket website via a third party (Xerox). However, Fixed’s engineers found a simple workaround, and then Xerox hired a third party to close those workarounds. While Fixed could still work around those blocks, it consumed a lot of engineering time and resources, which led Fixed to reposition its brand to focus on traffic tickets, and expanding out of California into other states.
“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 to our app were helping people pay their parking fines on time and avoid late fees,” Hegarty said. “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.”
Fixed has $1.85 million in funding—some of its investors include Y Combinator, angel investor Scott Banister and even New York rapper Nas. While it is helping drivers fight questionable parking tickets that might arise from public ignorance of city parking codes, lack of parking space or overzealous bureaucrats seeking to gouge drivers, major cities are taking note, and the war over parking tickets and Fixed itself could just be heating up.