Baltimore City publishes its parking citation list online. For most people, the citation roster is just a reminder of how frustrating it is to find one of those ominous neon-green envelopes nestled under your windshield wiper, but for local programmers Shea Frederick and James Schaffer, it was an opportunity.
The two men realized that by using an algorithm to sift through the wealth of parking ticket data, they could do a pretty decent job of predicting the chance that any particular car at any particular place and time in the city might end up with a ticket. So they created an app, SpotAgent, to do just that. One thing working in the developers’ favor so far: It turns out that meter maids’ routes are fairly predictable. For example, as any Hampdenite would know, the risk of getting ticketed as you pop into Common Ground for five minutes to get your morning coffee is rated by SpotAgent is quite high (47, on a scale of 100; anything over 12 counts as “high”).
As he told Atlantic Cities, Frederick sees the app as a fair move in the citizens’ war against meter enforcement. After all, it’s no coincidence that the meter maids lurk outside the coffee shop in the morning; they know there’s a good chance they’ll be able to nab someone who thinks he can get away with it. And of course the app can’t say for sure whether or not you’ll get a ticket — it just gives a tiny edge to drivers. “All’s fair in love and war,” he says. “Hey, you’re trying to save your 25 cents, and sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose.”
So far, the app only works in Baltimore, though the pair plans to expand to other cities soon. Download the Android or iPhone versions here.
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