Friday, May 30, 2014

An Easy Explanation for Why Fixed Doesn't Fix as Many Parking Tickets as Expected

The tech company Fixed promises to be the easiest way to fix a parking ticket. The LA Times (reported by Government Technology, link here) did some analysis of how well the company performs as found that Fixed clients are successful 20% of the time having their tickets dismissed. This is better than zero percent but less than the 28% of tickets dismissed by regular (meaning non-Fixed client) people. The founder of Fixed takes umbrage with this discrepancy:
When presented with the numbers by The Times, company founder David Hegarty accused the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency of possibly "willfully discriminating against our contests."
"To rub salt on our wounds," Hegarty said, "when they deny our contests, they do not include a reason for denial."
Perhaps there is discrimination about the tech clients, but I doubt it. Here is the SF MTA response from the story:
A spokesman for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency denied Hegarty's allegations, saying, "We do not have concerns if people want to use this third-party service.... There is no secret to overturning a citation. If there is a valid reason to dismiss, then that citation gets dismissed."
What is almost certainly happening is that David Hegarty has a poor grasp of economic incentives, at least as far as the Fixed pricing structure goes. Fixed clients are almost certainly not representative of the ticketed public overall. The way Fixed makes money is to take 25% of the savings for a ticket that gets dismissed, but does not charge for a failed contestation. Effectively there is no cost to whoever received the ticket for contesting the violation through Fixed, and Fixed clients will contest tickets they never would have before. Because of the high relative cost of contesting a ticket yourself people who contest in person should have a higher rate of dismissal. They likely believe in their innocence more than a Fixed client. If you take time to sit through traffic court to contest a ticket, you are either burdened by the fine or you really believe you shouldn't have been cited. Contra this, there are few reasons not to contest each and every ticket through Fixed as the only costs to the client are the time it takes to take a photo and fill out an online form. Even if you know full well you're guilty you should contest your parking tickets through Fixed. If you can get one of five dismissed you are doing well gaming the system.

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