You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Ticked off over a ticket? Try using some tech tools.


Who is sending Katherine Johnson's daughter parking tickets? 

The Miami Parking Authority's citations, usually for $42 apiece, have arrived in the mail intermittently since 2014 for violations that allegedly occurred in Miami, where her daughter attends college. When Johnson challenges them, the price mysteriously drops to $15.  

"Is this a scam?" asked Johnson, a trade analyst from Burke, Virginia.  

Bogus parking tickets can affect visitors disproportionately. Someone with an out-of-state license plate is less likely to contest a parking fine, which can make their vehicles easy targets. But now travelers can fight back. And they should.  

"The great news is that these days, there are a lot of apps and technologies that help people deal with a ticket that's bogus, undeserved - or just plain yours," says Dan Lear, director of industry relations at Avvo, an online legal marketplace.  

There are two kinds of bogus tickets: those wrongfully issued by a parking authority and those tacked onto your windshield by a scammer posing as a city employee. The former kind has been a problem since the dawn of parking citations, but the latter seems to be a new problem, the result of easy access to handheld printers that can print an official-looking notice in seconds. Scam tickets have been sighted in Asheville, North Carolina, Palm Springs, California, and as far away as Britain, where the forgeries are so sophisticated that it's reportedly impossible to tell the difference between a real ticket and a fake.  

"When we look into the data, we see a system that is very flawed," says Chris Riley, whose own frustrations with Miami tickets prompted him to create TIKD, a ticket-fighting app. "Tickets are issued unevenly and are full of the same biases we all hold as individuals," he says. "They're also a big financial burden. I think this is why many people have such a strong reaction to them."  

TIKD's solution is a web app for South Florida drivers that automates the process of challenging traffic citations, thanks to computer algorithms and a network of lawyers whom TIKD hires on behalf of its customers. The company currently works on most traffic citations, with the exception of criminal fines, DUIs and those received by minors. Riley says his company is considering adding parking tickets to its list of services because stories like Johnson's are all too common, and not just in Miami.  

Technology-based ticket-fighting options are still in their infancy. Among the choices are Parkingticket.com, which charges $4.95 a month per vehicle to fight your tickets, and smartphone apps such as WinIt, which disputes tickets in New York. The programs either help you fight a parking ticket yourself or enlist a specialist who goes to bat for you.  

Another recent innovation is a chatbot lawyer at Donotpay.co.uk, created last year by Joshua Browder, a Stanford University student. The site offers a series of automated responses to questions about parking tickets, which can help you fix them on your own. In New York, the site has helped motorists successfully contest more than 9,000 tickets worth more than $3 million. Browder says travelers, particularly car rental customers, are heavy users of the site.  

"From my experience, when the local government knows someone is using a rental car, they are particularly prone to issuing an unfair ticket," he says. "They know that rental-car customers are likely to be wealthier, and are more prone to making small mistakes."  

One of the best ways to determine if a parking violation is legit and whether to fight it remains a real lawyer. It's a little counterintuitive, as parking tickets usually don't cost that much, and there's a perception that most lawyers won't take such small cases. But Andrew Hoverman, a Montgomery Village, Maryland, lawyer who focuses on traffic defense cases, says that's not necessarily true.  

"Most people are unaware that they can hire an attorney to go in their stead to traffic court to fight on their behalf," he says.  

Perhaps the best way of fighting a bogus parking ticket - no matter where it comes from - is to avoid getting one in the first place. My preferred solution is mass transit. But if you drive, an app like Smoothparking, which displays legal parking spots in New York, Washington and Milwaukee, among several other cities, will warn you when a street is off limits to parking.  

Erica Conover learned one strategy on how to avoid parking tickets the hard way. When she moved to Boston to take a job as a technology publicist, she discovered that parking was almost impossible to find in her South Boston neighborhood. No matter how carefully she selected a spot, she would receive tickets - first for a "handicapped violation," then for double parking and finally for "other." Each time, Conover says she was lawfully parking. Yet she felt as if she had no choice but to pay.  

She eventually decided to start taking pictures of her vehicle and where she parked it. When she received the next citation, she filed an appeal with the help of the digital images. It worked.  

"My advice for really making a case?" she says. "Take photographic evidence. They proved I wasn't in the wrong."  

As for Johnson's tickets? Art Noriega, chief executive of the Miami Parking Authority, said he was "not aware" of any current parking scams in the city but agreed to look into the citations. Miami, like most big cities, has no shortage of parking-ticket complaints, making it difficult to tell if Johnson's daughter was scammed or just the target of an overzealous parking enforcement official.  

The investigation remains open.  

- - -  

Elliott is a consumer advocate, journalist and co-founder of the advocacy group Travelers United. Email him at chris@elliott.org.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Travel

Southwest Airlines to end practice of overbooking flights
Southwest Airlines to end practice of overbooking flights

Southwest Airlines plans to stop overbooking flights — an industry practice implicated in an ugly incident on a United Airlines flight that has damaged United's reputation with the flying public.  Last year Southwest bumped 15,000 passengers off flights, more than any other U.S. airline. Carriers say they sometimes sell more tickets than...
May blooms with events around the state
May blooms with events around the state

From Mayfests and Cinco de Mayo celebrations to craft brew experiences and music jams, May teems with festivities and fun. Road trip your way to a good time at these Texas festivals and events. Fort Worth May 4-7: Find four days of fun at the 45th annual Mayfest, taking place on 33 acres in Trinity Park. Mayfest draws around 200,000 each year with...
Love thrills? Can’t-miss rides and coasters coming to Texas this year
Love thrills? Can’t-miss rides and coasters coming to Texas this year

Sometimes you just can’t beat the whooshes, whirls and splashes of an amusement park. And according to the International Association of Amusement Parks, a lot of people really, really love them. In 2017 alone, parks in the United States and Canada are expected to entertain 412 million people and generate $23 billion. We’re lucky in Texas...
6 in-town getaways to make Mom’s day
6 in-town getaways to make Mom’s day

It was a typical weekend day. Our oldest had a soccer game, our other son had martial arts and our toddler had a birthday party to attend, the moments in between a chaotic dance of making meals, shuttling kids across town and squeezing in last-minute errands. What wasn’t so ordinary was that by midafternoon, my mom and I were beginning an early...
This couple took their 11-month-old camping for 12 days. Would you?
This couple took their 11-month-old camping for 12 days. Would you?

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Matt and Kimberly Kinney always travel light when they head into the woods, leaving behind everything but the necessities and keeping their backpacks as slim as possible. Two summers ago they decided to add one very heavy item to the packing list: their 22-pound infant.  In July 2015, the Sacramento parents took their...
More Stories