The Iowa City Parking Ticket Citation Online Payment System has a database lookup feature that can search all parking tickets based on citation number or license plate number.
For most people, when you search on your license plate, the current citation(s) will show up and you can pay them online.
However, someone who is leasing a vehicle will receive the following notification without any further explanation:
The following violation(s) were found for the information you entered as well as any other license plates on your record. Select the citations you would like to pay and click “Next >>”
The report may show many entries for every vehicle with a citation from that same leasing company. An example is found at the bottom of this page.
Poor Online User Experience
Here’s the typical consumer experience when encountering the above message:
- The person attempting to pay their parking ticket will at first be confused and surprised by the large number of outstanding parking tickets the system seems to be saying are due.
- Upon closer examination, the person will see that the many tickets are for numerous vehicles.
- Assuming the system has been hacked, or isn’t working properly, they will probably contact the city for more information (increasing support calls and emails to city workers).
- If they email the city, clearly explaining the above problem, they will receive an email reply stating: “I have deleted that email address from our system, so you should be able to create a new account and pay any outstanding tickets online. If you have any other questions or concerns, please call our office at 319-356-5151 option 2.”
- Assuming the problem is now fixed, the person will again, enter their plate number, but the same results will come up as before.
- The person will need to call the city again for clarification, by calling the number provided in step #4 and then pressing 2.
- They will then be told that they must manually search through all the citations (perhaps many pages of them) to find their own (listed by vehicle license plate number).
- Then they must manually UNCHECK all the citations that aren’t theirs – because there isn’t an uncheck all option.
- Then the can proceeded to pay only their citation.
The above example shows how inefficient and confusing the existing system is.
Under the current system, some people, who aren’t paying close attention, may end up paying old citations for other people. For example, when you query the database and request that it show you what tickets you owe, and it produces a list, you may just go ahead and pay those tickets if just a few are listed. You’ll probably assume you got a ticket sometime and forgot to pay or the ticket blew away before you returned to the vehicle. You will be unwittingly paying someone else’s tickets that are listed among your own. Having all citations checked by default increases the chances of this happening. A syndical person may conclude that the system was intentionally designed to mislead consumers into mistakenly paying old unpaid citations that are on the books for other drivers.
In addition to the inconveniences, inefficiencies, and confusion listed above, there is a privacy issue because people unwittingly are having their vehicle parking citation information exposed to anyone in the public who happens to type in that person’s license plate number or a plate from any vehicle from the same leasing company. With the current system, all you need is a person’s license plate number to discover every ticket they have been issued and not paid.
The system is retaining and displaying information as far back as 6 years old. At some point, an unpaid parking ticket, perhaps for a student who has long-since moved to another state, should be removed from the books and written off as a loss. In the case of rental car companies, municipalities will assess a fee to the entity that owns the vehicle, and it’s up to that company to track down and fine the responsible party. However, a municipality trying to track down the owner of a leased or rented vehicle from many years ago is just inefficient.
Here are some suggestions for a better online parking ticket / citation payment system:
- Display only the tickets for the license plate searched on and not others from the same leasing company.
- Provide an option for leasing company representatives where they can view all citations on their vehicles.
- If a system displays multiple citations, they should not all be checked by default, and there should be an option to select all or unselect all.
- If a listing is showing other vehicles that are part of a leasing company, then it should be clearly stated, “”Vehicles listed may not be your own. They may be part of a fleet or owned by a leasing company, with unpaid citations going back almost 7 years.”
- Some privacy and multi-factor authentication measures should be put in place so that only the vehicle owner can view their own parking tickets.
Database Search Results Sample
Below is an actual page from the search results. The citation numbers and plate numbers have been slightly modified from the originals to maintain anonymity of the owners. Search results like this one are easily obtained by entering any vehicle associated with a leasing company.
|Citation Number||Issue Date||Plate Number||Violation||Balance||Can Pay Online?|
|09G000144||10/30/2008||563TSZ-IA||LIB USE ONLY||$10.00||Yes|
|09D006474||12/16/2008||842TTD-IA||NO PARKING 8AM-5PM||$15.00||Yes|
|11W016502||06/15/2011||645XQC-IA||EXPIRED METER 2010||$5.00||Yes|
|12F005376||04/13/2012||KJBLL1-IA||EXPIRED METER 2010||$10.00||Yes|
|12W017659||06/30/2012||KJBLL1-IA||EXPIRED METER 2010||$15.00||Yes|