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Ticket Ninja automatically pays Chicago parking tickets

  • (Chicago Tribune)
(Chicago Tribune)
July 18, 2013|By Mick Swasko, @swasko

It’s the next best thing to a parking ticket that pays itself.

Ticket Ninja, launched in Chicago this week, is a new online platform that promises to pay city parking tickets automatically -- before users get hit with a late fee. It was the brainchild of Nick Gartmann, a 24-year-old software engineer, who launched the service in his hometown of Milwaukee and in Madison, Wisc., as the result of racking up late fees on tickets he had received.

“In late winter and early spring this year, I got nine parking tickets in a couple of months,” he said. The problem was compounded by the fact that he was driving his dad’s car, and his forgetfulness in paying the tickets resulted in a license plate suspension. So he knocked together some code that would remind him when the tickets were due, and pay them automatically. When he realized the system might be useful for other Milwaukee residents, he launched a website.

He expanded to Chicago this week, realizing Ticket Ninja may be even more useful in a city where millions of tickets are issued annually, with much higher late fees.

“Realistically, I feel sorry for you guys,” he said. “The fines for being late are insane. Chicago makes so much more sense for me because there’s such a heavy penalty for forgetting to pay.”

Gartmann explained that to sign up, Ticket Ninja needs your license plate number and credit card information, which is stored securely through a third-party payment system. Once you become a member, the site actively monitors the city’s database of current parking tickets. If a citation is issued, users will be sent an e-mail, with the option of paying immediately or canceling payment in order to contest the ticket.

If a user forgets the ticket, Ticket Ninja automatically pays the original fine the day before the fine is set to go up. There also is an option to turn off all payments completely and just receive reminders of dates when citations are due. The site charges a $3 fee for the automatic payment.

As of now, Gartmann said he is actively working to include moving violations like speeding to the service, as the system currently only pays parking violations.  

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