Can mobile apps help make parking in Boston less miserable?


I’m an optimist, and so despite almost 15 years of searching for parking, getting ticketed, and being towed in Boston, I still believe that something will eventually mitigate the misery.

Several new mobile apps promise to do that. So I loaded them on my iPhone this month and set out in search of parking.

Since the early days of smartphones, entrepreneurs have tried to use them to reduce the time and frustration of finding a parking spot. Nothing has yet taken off. Part of the reason is parking spots vanish faster than sorbet on a 90 degree day.

The four apps I tested were Haystack, Parker, SpotHero, and SPOT. All are available for iPhone and Android. You can read about my experiences on

Sharing a few pics I shot while driving around town this week hunting for parking…Above is the first beautiful piece of real estate I tried to sell using Haystack, on JFK Street in Harvard Square.


I tried to buy this spot in Harvard Square for $5, but could never find the Land Rover that supposedly occupied it, even after two passes. I was 0 for 7 in my attempts to buy or sell spaces with Haystack.


Parker uses sensors underneath the pavement to tell when a spot is available. It thought that there were a lot of spaces on Summer Street open — but they were in fact blocked off for use by a movie crew.


I used SPOT to reserve this space in an alley behind Newbury Street: two hours for $10. Unfortunately, it was hard to find the space because another car was occupying it, there were no address numbers visible on the buildings, and my only landmark was the graffitied dumpsters on the right. (I couldn’t find it in my car, so I went back later to see if I could find it on foot.) Later, the space’s owner said he wasn’t aware that it had been rented through the app.


The highpoint of my week was using the SPOT app to rent out my driveway in Brookline for five hours. I earned $6.37. I am thinking about raising the rent, which I’d set at $1.50 an hour. My tenant was extremely courteous and left no oil stains.

Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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