Hospitals have been ordered to provide free parking for some patients and visitors under new NHS guidelines announced by the government.
The new guidelines make clear that the actions of private parking firms will be the responsibility of hospital trusts and that details about parking charges should be clearly publicised in car parks and inside hospitals.
Studies have previously found that NHS hospitals make millions of pounds from parking charges.
Research by Macmillan Cancer Support has showed that the average daily cost of using a hospital car park is £7.66, with rates ranging from nothing to £24 a day.
Conservative MP Stephen Metcalfe said: “For those who say car parking charges are vital income for hospitals, they need to answer why 25% of hospitals charge nothing at all and why there is such variation between not only regions, but even neighbouring hospitals.”
Macmillan’s head of policy, Duleep Allirajah also said “Hospitals must not ignore government guidance and commit to implementing the guidelines as a matter of urgency so that cancer patients do not continue to pay unfair hospital parking charges.”
There have been a few articles over the last couple of months referring to ‘jerk tech’, apps or technology that exploit public infrastructure to make money for themselves. This was highlighted by a couple of different parking apps, which were based on ‘selling’ free parking spaces as the driver was about to leave one.
Monkey Parking was one such app, which was later served with a cease and desist order from San Francisco’s City Attorney. It works by notifying the app that you’ve parked somewhere, and you will then be altered when other drivers nearby are looking for a space. Drivers can then bid in an auction for the space, and only paying when they have successfully parked in the space vacated by the driver who auctioned the space. Essentially they are taking a free resouce (parking) and allowing money to be made from it, which many don’t agree with (hence ‘jerk tech’).
Another app called Sweetch did something similar, whereby a driver pays $5 to take over someone else’s space, but then gets $4 if they in turn give their space to another Sweetch user. Since they were hit with the C&D it appears that they decided to Open Source the project, now called Freetch so that others could make their own apps using the technology.
Would you happily use an app like this and pay a little to save yourself time spent searching for parking, or do you agree with the jerk tech label?
I wrote a little about the parking app called Fixed in a post back in January, but the app recently went out of beta and launched to the whole San Francisco area. They’ve also raised an additional $1.2 million in funding from investors like Y Combinator.
If you remember from the previous post, the app let you scan a parking ticket and then send it through to the company. They would then look at the type of ticket, and the likelihood of winning, and issue a quote for a fee that would be less than the fine (if won on appeal).
Apparently since coming out of beta, around 35,000 users have signed up to their service. According to a recent blog post, it also appears that the City transport agency are not to keen on the app. In order to have digital proof of sending their appeals, Fixed would fax copies of their claims over (the only other method being to post them). The agency didn’t like this and so turned their fax machine off.
The company estimates that they are processing 1 percent of all tickets issued each week (28,000), with a win rate of 20-30 percent. They plan to expand the service to other cities if the business proves to be scalable.
It’s interesting to see this from a UK perspective, where nearly all major authorities allow online appeals to their PCNs (as we attempt to list), as well as email, post and fax. It could be due to this that we haven’t seen any similar apps over here.
I haven’t previously picked up on this app, which has been available on iTunes for a while, but it’s now been released on the Google Play store as well. The (free) app aims to cover nearly all of London, and is intended to help motorists avoid parking tickets by knowing before they park what the restrictions are near their destination.
It should not only give information about free and paid parking, but disabled spaces, road markings (doubel-yellows etc…) and residents parking bays. It can even provide date and event based information, restricted hours, nearby petrol stations, and the ability to gps tag where you’ve parked so you don’t forget later.
As well as the store links above, you can find out more on the app on their site, or view their promotional video below.
Hat Tip: TNW
According to an article over at TechCrunch, an ambitious app is launching in San Francisco that offers to fight parking tickets. The new Fixed app is running under a limited beta trial, and would charge 25% of the amount fined if the ticket is cancelled successfully.
A user would take a picture of the ticket through the app and send that along with the reference number to an advisor. The advisor then looks up the type of offence, shows the likelihood of cancellation as a percentage, and quotes how much they would save by paying Fixed rather than the ticket. If you lose then you still have to pay the ticket, but Fixed get nothing. It’s not clear whether US fines work in a similar way to the UK, where they increase in cost after a fixed period, or sometimes simply because you have appealed.
With the huge sums collected via parking enforcement in cities around the world, Fixed clearly think there’s money to be made in contesting these. As TechCrunch mention, it’s not clear whether this idea can scale. Having spent 6 years contesting fines for a large corporate fleet in the UK, I know just how much of a bureaucratic nightmare this can be. It’s hard to imagine that the amount of effort and paperwork they will have to put in to appealing these tickets is worth the fees they charge.
The Guardian have published a pretty good video that covers the appeals process for both council-issued and private parking fines.
Almost guaranteed to induce rage.
It’s been a while since I wrote about the introduction of civil parking enforcement in Lincolnshire, which started about 6 months ago. An article published this morning states that every single warden (or Civil Enforcement Officer) employed at the introduction of the scheme has since left. The entire team has apparently been replaced at least once over due to “stress of the job and sickness”.
Apparently much of the blame has been placed on abusive motorists, to the extent that all CEOs are now given GPS and camera units to ensure that any attacks are recorded. While abuse of any kind can’t be condoned, I do have to wonder how much stress is down to abuse, and how much is down to knowing they will continue to get abuse due to the way they are expected to operate.
It’s well known that CEOs are often pressured to issue as many tickets as possible, although it’s illegal to actually specify a quota on parking tickets. This is often the cause of many disputes, as you see on this blog, often tickets are issued without any common sense being applied to the circumstances. It’s not hard to see how stress can result from having to work using a certain mindset every day that you know will antagonise people.
Michael Brookes, chairman of the highways and transport scrutiny committee at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “These wardens simply cannot cope.
“It is a massive concern. A 100 per cent staff turnover is as bad as it gets in such a short space of time.
“We need to work very closely with the contractors to make sure the new wardens we are bringing into work on our streets in Lincolnshire are up to the job.
“It must be an extremely difficult job and only a certain person could do it.”
I’m a bit late with this one, but various papers have reported on a group of BT engineers being arrested over a fake clamping scheme. It’s alleged that the engineers created a fake company, issuing paperwork for the release of clamps attached to their vans as they went about their business. They would then claim these penalty payments under expenses. This is estimated to have made them around £200,000.
I can’t help but wonder whether their vehicles were fleet managed or not. If their paperwork had been going to a fleet management company, chances are it would have been caught sooner. There are only so many players in the parking industry and when you process penalties every day it gets easy to spot a newcomer or something that doesn’t look quite right.
It would also be interesting to know whether the change in legislation had anything to do with them being caught, as it became illegal to clamp vehicles on private land in October 2012, so that too may have been a giveaway.
I saw a couple of articles today about an app called SpotSquad due to go into trials in Canada next month. It brings the idea of crowdsourcing to the parking enforcement arena. We’ve all seen cases of bad parking, with seemingly nobody around to do anything about it, so what if you could report it yourself and possibly get rewarded at the same time?
The proposed plan is that users of the app take down vehicle details using their smartphone if they spot a car in breach of the rules in a participating car park. This info includes GPS data and photos, this then summons an actual enforcement person to formally issue a ticket if they agree with the submission. This bypasses any potential issues over a member of the public, rather than a professional, issuing fines (the articles also mention the user photos are not valid in court for example). Revenue from the fine is then shared between the reporter and SpotSquad. There is also an element of gamification in that users are given increasing military style ranks based on how successful they are in generating tickets.
Whether the business model is viable remains to be seen, but they already have plans to expand into the US market if successful.