Boston City Council submits ordinance to put an end to parking apps, like Haystack


Earlier today, in a Boston City Council meeting that also tackled possible regulations for Uber, an ordinance was submitted by Boston City Councilor Frank Baker prohibiting, without permission from the City of Boston, the ability to “sell, lease, reserve, or facilitate the reserving of any street, way, highway, road or parkway, or portion thereof under the City of Boston’s control.”

First reported by Bostinno’s Nick Deluca, the ordinance should put an end to controversial parking app Haystack’s ability to operate in the city. Deluca added that that anyone who violates the ordinance will face a $250 penalty for each violation.

The move by the city council goes a step further than Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s previous statements and threats towards Baltimore-based Haystack. Walsh previously said, that Boston’s Transportation Department “will take appropriate measures to prohibit any such app.”

Adam Vaccaro added in his piece on the ordinance that a spokesperson for Baker said “The intention is to target reservation systems that involve payment.”

Haystack was quick to respond, issuing a statement from founder and chief executive Eric Meyer:

“Hundreds of neighbors in Boston have successfully exchanged information about parking with Haystack and enjoyed a simpler way to find spots while reducing emissions and traffic congestion.

Haystack does not sell, lease or reserve parking spots, but rather allows neighbors to exchange information about parking.  And neighbors have every right to share information with one another.

While we are unaware of this ordinance and will need to study it further, any attempt to deny Boston residents access to such information is a step backwards in reaching our common goal of simpler streets and parking innovation for city residents.

We remain optimistic that cities and innovative companies can and will work together to take the stress and inefficiencies out of urban parking.”

A few things to note from the Haystack chief executive’s comments. As he has done numerous times, he refers to neighbors, not users, a very quick slight of hand to put a focus on the civic and not financially beneficial component of the app. Additionally, he plugs in a reference to the ability of the app to eliminate congestion while reducing emissions, as before, without context.

(Also note the change in numbers being used by Meyer who had previously referred to the “thousands” of Bostonians who had already downloaded the app; today, that figure is “hundreds” of users.)

Lastly, as Adam Vaccaro has previously stated, the idea that only information is being shared is completely nullified by the app’s “Make Me Move” feature which creates motivation for Haystack users to squat in potentially lucrative parking spaces or wait for the best deal from a fellow user. This point also caught the attention of national tech media outlet ValleyWag recently.

Almost all of the correspondence from city officials in regard to Haystack have referred to a need for companies who are civically innovating the right way. Don’t be surprised if a City of Boston approved parking app appears on the scene very soon.

Dennis Keohane was a Senior Staff Writer for BetaBoston.
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