City of Boston passes ordinance to ban parking apps like Haystack; Haystack suspends service

parking tickets

The Boston City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting the selling, leasing, or reserving of public ways  in the city, a move made squarely to counter Haystack, a Baltimore-based startup that allows parkers in the city’s metered spots to sell access as they were leaving to others looking for openings.The ordinance also stated that only the Boston Transportation Department has the authority and jurisdiction to regulate parking.

The motion to pass the ordinance was put forward by Councilor Michael Flaherty.

Before the vote, many city councilors spoke on the topic. Councilor Frank Baker referred to last week’s meeting with Haystack chief executive Eric Meyer, saying, “A lot was spoken about how the person from Haystack said that we didn’t understand what the app was…my understanding was that they were trying to buy and sell public property that wasn’t theirs to buy and sell.”

“I think we should vote to ban this particular app because it is dealing with our property,” he said, predicting next people could try to rent parks or benches.

Councilor Matt O’Malley, referring to Lyft and Airbnb, differentiated how those applications deal with something that is private as opposed to public.

Councilor Tito Jackson said that this vote was a difficult one for him because he thought it could risk thwarting technology and the innovation.

“I’m worried about blowback,” he said,  “Are we taking away a potential opportunity?”

All those who spoke mentioned that the city could do something on its own to leverage technology to improve the parking situation in the city.

Haystack’s Meyer responded to the passing of the ordinance by saying that the company would suspend services in Boston until further notice, and hopes to work with the Office of New Urban Mechanics on a future project. Meyer starts the statement by again arguing the point that his company does not sell public property.

Here is the full statement:

“Although we think that Ordinance 1310 should not apply to Haystack (as Haystack does not sell, lease or reserve public parking spots), it seems clear to us that City Council has passed Ordinance 1310, at least in part, to challenge and end Haystack service in the City of Boston.

We believe that taking actions against new ideas and passing legislation based upon hypothetical concerns that have not materialized in the actual implementation of the Haystack app is premature and does nothing to help solve Boston’s acknowledged parking issues. The passage of this ordinance is a step in the wrong direction for parking innovation, and for innovation of every kind.

Nonetheless, it is our company’s mission to solve parking issues collaboratively. Accordingly, Haystack will suspend service in Boston this week until further notice in the hopes of engaging with the Office of New Urban Mechanics and local lawmakers to identify a modified approach to parking issues that can be supported by City Hall.”

Dennis Keohane was a Senior Staff Writer for BetaBoston.
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