Advocates for the disabled are calling out drivers for parking illegally in handicapped spaces – and they now have both technology and government on their side.
A new app called Parking Mobility allows citizen volunteers to submit photos of handicapped parking violators directly to authorities. Today, the Travis County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to move forward with a six month pilot program allowing qualified volunteers to become deputies whose submissions can turn into citations. The current penalty for illegal parking in a handicapped space is a minimum fine of $500.
The pilot program will take place in Precinct 3 (West Travis County) and carry a $49,000 price tag. However, the program's creators say it will likely bring in more revenue than it costs, based on tests conducted in another part of Travis County last year. Parking Mobility claims in a report [PDF] that with citywide adoption, the program would bring in $1,000,000 a year in fines.
But the program's creators say it's not about revenue but about public education.
"These spaces are not a convenience,” Parking Mobility director Mack Marsh says. "They're a necessity for people to be able to maintain their employment, to protect their health and safety … to live and do the things that many people take for granted."
Marsh himself uses a wheelchair, and says he has been injured on three separate occasions due to disabled parking access issues. Twice, Marsh says he had to park at the back of a lot when the handicapped space was illegally occupied – and being shorter in his wheelchair than the bumper of many large Texas trucks, he says he was backed over while crossing the parking lot.
“We know this isn’t an issue for law enforcement,” Marsh says. “They have a lot of other things on their hands.”
Marsh believes that deputizing citizen volunteers – who must undergo a four-hour training – will go far toward addressing enforcement issues. While only the submissions from deputized volunteers can result in tickets, anyone can submit photos of disabled parking violations. The photos are not saved to the user’s device and cannot be altered or manipulated.
Parking Mobility says they have approached several cities around the country about implementing the program, which Marsh says is the first of its kind worldwide.
“We’ve had a lot of people say ‘We love the idea, but we don’t want to be first’,” Marsh says. “They are all looking to Travis County to be the leader on this.”