If there's something city dwellers almost universally hate, it's parking tickets.
Native New Yorker Glen Bolofsky is well aware of this. For more than 20 years, his business has offered services to individuals and businesses that help them avoid or contest parking tickets -- tickets he says are usually excessive, and therefore, unconstitutional.
In his opinion, parking tickets have become simply a means of generating revenue for municipal coffers.
"The problem is that government is there to help people, not profit from people," Bolofsky said. "Too often, revenue is the focus of parking tickets. They really aren't used as they should be, to create an environment of safety for drivers and pedestrians."
Bolofsky used to publish a New York calendar informing citizens of which days parking regulations were not in force. Eventually the city began publishing the same information and distributing it for free.
In 1993, he launched Alarm System, a software program designed to give companies who regularly receive a large volume of parking tickets the ability to fight those tickets.
"The program included all the rules, regulations, laws and what we call 'unwritten history' of the parking bureaus -- the tips and tricks we learned and that a retired parking violations judge had to offer," explained Bolofsky. "Basically it's a ticket-killing machine. Based on the information entered, the program prints out a customized dismissal request letter for each ticket. It's like a mini legal brief."
The application was not designed for the average individual. After Alarm System is installed on a client's computer system, employees are trained to enter information from city reports or from the parking ticket, and then to monitor and edit the printout. The whole package is usually licensed for thousands of dollars per year.
"We have clients paying us up to $30,000 a year to use the program," said Bolofsky. "It's nothing like a $39 or $89 divorce kit you would buy at Staples or Office Depot."
Bolofsky also offers a service where companies simply give his company their parking tickets, and his staff, using automated software, succeeds in getting a large number of them reduced or successfully canceled.
In 2001, Bolofsky developed extensive front and back ends to the program that allowed him to put it online for individuals, eventually launching parkingticket.com.
"Most people don't even know they can contest or appeal parking tickets," Bolofsky said. "Part of our job is to educate them on what they can do if they feel they have received a ticket unfairly."
The process involves far more than simply a few clicks. It usually takes a person a minimum of 10 or 15 minutes to enter data for each ticket, according to Bolofsky, because a person not only enters all the details of the ticket and vehicle registration, he or she also answers approximately 100 additional questions.
"We take about 100 different slices of the parking ticket to determine if there is any missing information, any incorrect information, or if the rules or regulations allow for dismissal based upon the circumstances," Bolofsky explained.
After the system automatically generates a customized dismissal request letter, the person still has to mail it in with any needed documentation. The Web service charges half the cost of the ticket's fine, and the company offers a money-back guarantee. If a ticket is not reduced or dismissed, the service is free. According to the company's promotional literature, the service has a 75 percent success rate.
The Web site already serves New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Bolofsky said he plans to expand the service to Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, and eventually Europe and Asia.
It takes considerable work to extend the service to a new city, in part because that municipality's different parking