A new parking app that uses volunteers to log disabled parking violations may soon be available in San Marcos.
The city of San Marcos on Tuesday was briefed on Parking Mobility, a smartphone app that engages citizens in the process of enforcing when people park illegally in handicapped-accessible parking spaces. The nonprofit Parking Mobility is disability-owned and -operated.
“Accessible parking violations are clearly a matter of public concern,” San Marcos Police Chief Chase Stapp said during the work session, adding the City Council and staff have received numerous comments about disabled parking violations over the years.
The app works like this: Volunteers sign up for the program, and when they witness a violation, they log it on the Parking Mobility app. Violations logged by nontrained volunteers are used solely for statistical purposes. Violations logged by trained volunteers who have taken a four-hour course will be reviewed by the Parking Mobility staff, then sent to the San Marcos Police Department for review. If the police department issues a summons and a fine, the violator can either show up in court and pay the fine or take an online or in-person education class.
“The program is heavily focused on education before heavy-handed citation,” Mobility Parking Project Director Mack Marsh said. He added about 90 percent of violators opt to take the class.
Marsh—who also is disabled and is in a wheelchair—said 100 percent of the fines collected are retained by the city. The city’s cost to engage in Parking Mobility’s services would be about $35,000-$40,000 for the first few years, tapering off to a lower annual maintenance payment after that.
“This should not be about generating revenue,” he said. “This should be about changing behavior.”
Stapp said disabled parking violations issued by police officers have brought in around $32,750 over the last two years.
The app has been used in Hays County for several years. The county paid $65,000 during the first year of service and now pays $5,000 a year as part of a maintenance agreement with the nonprofit.
Mayor John Thomaides said the Parking Mobility app would be placed on a future regular council meeting agenda for adoption.
Marsh and Stapp said prior to the app going live, the nonprofit and the city would do educational outreach to inform residents and recruit volunteers.
“We use anger as a recruitment tool,” Marsh said. “People get mad, they see a violation, they go on Google and say, ‘How do I report this?’ We’re the first people to pop up.”