Is this week’s parking app pilot decision a test of Mayor Walsh’s bullish stance on innovation?

parking tickets

Last week, Mayor Martin J. Walsh came out and expressed his opposition to parking app Haystack’s launch in Boston.  In his statement, the mayor said, “The Boston Transportation Department (“BTD”) welcomes innovation in all aspects of urban transportation, including the use of apps by smartphone users.”

Very soon, we will have a test case of just how serious the mayor is about innovation in Boston.

The City of Boston recently issued a request for proposals to find a pilot program for a mobile parking ticket payment app to partner with the city. The city will ultimately choose one company to work with to make paying for parking tickets easier.

While there may be some folks out there working on an application we haven’t heard of, from what I hear, there are two groups vying to win the bid to be the city’s parking ticket partner.

One is the city’s current parking ticket payment system partner Xerox; the other is local startup Terrible Labs’ parking app TicketZen.

Xerox has had a partnership with the city for over 32 years, since “Boston became one of the first cities in the nation to outsource ticket processing,” according to a Xerox case study from this year. Xerox’s transportation department performs a number of services for the city including its online parking ticket payment system as well as the creation and tracking of the tickets once there is a violation.

TicketZen has more recently developed a relationship with the City of Boston, launching its parking ticket payment app last year. Currently, TicketZen is the only parking ticket payment app for citizens to pay parking tickets in Boston, New York, and San Francisco. To date, more than $18,000 in Boston parking tickets have been paid using the app.

So when it comes down to it, you have a longtime partner who is trying to create a product to meet the city’s needs and on the other, you have a young company trying to deepen its relationship with the city and serve as a model for innovative startups and local government to work together.

From TicketZen’s perspective, partnering with them allows the City of Boston to take enormous steps towards its stated goal of being friendly to tech and innovation. As Cort Johnson, director of Terrible Labs and co-founder of TicketZen said, “The city needs a better blueprint for working and piloting projects/products that are startup oriented.”

“There are more and more startups being created that are transforming how we are interacting with our cities,” said Johnson. “Boston has an opportunity to be one of the first cities that has a blueprint on how to interact with these companies to make living in the City of Boston better for its citizens.”

HubSpot’s Ryan Neu, another TicketZen cofounder, said his company “was built for Boston, by Bostonians. it is going to be the best app for this, because this is all we do.”

I reached out for comment from Xerox, but have yet to hear back from the company.

Dennis Keohane was a Senior Staff Writer for BetaBoston.
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