Council votes to ban parking-space saver app

The City Council today voted to ban a phone app that lets users notify other users of impending open parking spaces in Boston - and to back it up with fines of up to $250 per instance.

City Councilor Frank Baker (Dorchester), who proposed the ordinance, admitted that he doesn't understand "all apps," but he understands this one just fine. "They were trying to buy and sell city property, which isn't there's to buy and sell," he said.

City Councilor Matt O'Malley (West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain), who admits he loves technology - he's an avid Uber and Airbnb user - said Haystack is different because it involves public property, rather than private property. He said he would be willing to work with the startup to see if there were a way to use its service for the city's private parking garages and lots.

City Councilor Tito Jackson (Roxbury), another tech fan, said he was troubled by the proposal because he was not sure if Haystack was really marketing public property so much as information. However, in the end, he voted for it.



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PDF icon Haystack report and ordinance142.98 KB


Space savers?

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Text of the ordinance:

"... No person or entity... shall have authority to sell, lease, reserve, or facilitate the reserving of any street, way, highway, road, parkway, or portion thereof..."

Seems like this would apply to space saver behavior as well?


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Now let's see somebody try a space-saver app in South Boston and Jamaica Plain :-).

Sometimes the system works

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10-15 years ago I used to drive from JP and park my car in the South End, Fenway, or Back Bay all the time. Slowly free street parking disappeared to the point where I now find it more convenient to take the T. One less car driving or parking on the road. Success.


Nothing like banning an application they have no jurisdiction over to solve a problem they created in an attempt to keep the price of a service low enough as to ensure there is never enough supply.

Much like Uber, the app is red herring. This boils down to trying to ban offering (or accepting?) money to move property. It's the same thing if I went to the park and offered to pay a kid or their parents $20 to run along and let me use the swings for a while.

As I've said before, the solution is to let the market set the price of public on street parking, not the city setting the price way below what the market is willing to offer.

You are aware

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That the city is pricing the space accordingly... your tax dollars just make up the difference.

You'd also kill any and all business if you did that. No one would pay 25+ bucks to park on the street. The business owners would revolt if this was done.


You are also aware when you pay to park in a garage, it helps pay for the upkeep. You aren't doing so when you park on the street. So your tax dollars make up the difference.

The other side of the coin is this.. WHY is parking in Boston so expensive?? (other than limited availability). Maybe the issue is parking lots charge TOO much and should go charge the same as the city. Where I am from in NH, I can park at the muni lot all day for 3 dollars. You can park at the T all day for 6 dollars also. Maybe the issue is gouging on parking lots, and not so much the city needs to increase (which btw.. in some areas it can cost 50 cents PER 15 minutes so 2 bucks an hour to park).

Probably not

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How many people do you think drive into the city with the expectation they will get a parking spot downtown? Probably very few. If you get one - bonus - but most shoppers/workers probably figure they have to park in a lot. In my experience, a good chunk of the public spots are occupied by business owners and their employees. Every couple of hours, they go out for a break and do the Turbo Tango (or take their chances feeding the meter). Of course then there are the people who use dead Grandma's handicapped tag too - but that's a whole different matter.

Owners might revolt - but not because you charged more for their customer's spots. They would revolt because you charged more for THEIR spots.

Maybe not $25 - but $5 an hour, $10 an hour - would put a lot of people on the T - and I'm not talking about shoppers.


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read my edit above.. we kinda meet eye to eye on overpriced lots.


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There are so many things wrong w/your post, I don't know where to start. Let's go with this. Who says parking in Boston is "too expensive"?

*eye roll*

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You must not read.

I can park at the MBTA for six bucks. I can also park outside the city for far less.

So yes its very over priced by comparison.

That's like saying

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that because you can buy a house for 200k less in Maine, housing is overpriced in Boston. Resources in a city are scarce, and therefore cost more.

And yes, the price of street parking should be much, much higher. Primarily to discourage employees from chewing up spaces all day. Dumping a few bucks into a meter for an 8 hour shift doesn't seem that bad. Dumping over $20 would probably encourage more employees to take the T or start parking in a lot or garage, which would free up street spaces, enabling actual customers who prefer to drive to be able to get a spot.


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But you live in NEW HAMPSHIRE, not in Boston. Guess what, parking in NYC can be $50-$60/day. I can park 3 minutes from the Financial District in Boston for $17. I can park on the street for for $1.25/hour.

if it were overpriced it

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if it were overpriced it wouldn't be sold, but it is, and many of these lots sell out, If they were overpriced then another private company would come in and undercut them in the same location, but the only people doing that is the city government, which subsidizes the spaces. Its like EBT for divers except its not need based.

Supply and Demand

By definition if the price of parking was free floating it would only reach $25/hour if people were willing to pay that. Private lots charge 100% more then what the cities charges yet they do fine so obviously the market (aka "The Public") is OK with paying well above what the city charges for parking.

Would business owners prefer people avoid an area because they know finding parking is a PITA or would they prefer people avoid an area because parking is expensive? Either way parking problems are a drag on businesses, hence suburban malls with a sea of spots so that there is always available free parking.

Parking meters should charge $0.25/hour when there are many spots open and $10/hour when they are all in use. This encourages people to keep moving at peak times and stay longer when not many people are around. Good for business.


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Interesting idea (seriously)

but the question is.. how would they know when the spaces are taken or not? We've done away with many single spot meters and have those multi meters thingys now. So how do you know if all the parking is taken or not to charge a higher price?

Technology exists

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Garages can tell you how many spots are available on each level.


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"You'd also kill any and all business if you did that. No one would pay 25+ bucks to park on the street. The business owners would revolt if this was done."

I hope the business owners are planning the revolution. 7 days a week residential parking is ready to kick off the "pilot program", so it'll cost $40 to park on the street if you don't live in Southie.

P.S. This stupid pilot program conveniently doesn't affect Linehan who started the whole thing and lives on G street. It conveniently kicks off after August so when 15,000 less people are coming to Southie each weekend since beach season is over and Linehan can go "Look it worked!"

Social experiment

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People moving into the City want their cars. In South Boston the number of resident parking stickers increased by almost 1700 in a 3 year period. Saying people would rather take bikes and public transportation is bullshit. Boston will never become Calcutta even though there's plenty trying to make it look that way.

Business owners might not revolt

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"The business owners would revolt if this was done."

More expensive meter parking could 1) increase the turnover rate of meter spaces, and 2) make meter spaces available more often. Businesses might come out ahead.


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The parking meter was invented in 1935 for the purpose of increasing turnover of parking spaces. Business owners called it a "magical business-generating machine" and lobbied to have parking meters installed on their streets.

Anyone who claims meters might hurt sales doesn't know history and doesn't know business. Parking meters are there to help make it easier to park. In the old days, before parking meters, people used to just leave their cars on the street all day and all night and create a general nuisance, blocking up the street much worse than double-parkers do today. It got so bad that Boston even briefly tried to ban all street parking in 1920.

The principles of proper parking policy in dense urban settings are now well-known: track usage of parking spaces in each place; for each location charge the right price for parking based on supply and demand; and return the revenue to the community in the form of neighborhood improvements. Less hassle, less fighting, more reliability, more predictability.

City officials need to stop living in some la-la fantasy land with regard to parking. The city ain't the suburbs, and gigantic mall-sized parking lots are not appropriate here.

The principles aren't hard, they just need to be applied.

We can't even do that right

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return the revenue to the community in the form of neighborhood improvements

I'm 99% sure that all parking meter revenue goes into a Parking Meter Fund which can only be used for improvements and repair of parking meters by the law that allowed for the collection of the revenue in the first place. We actually woefully underspend the amount collected every year and have built a huge nest egg of money in that fund that can't legally be spent on anything.

this just says it all

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City Councilor Frank Baker (Dorchester), who proposed the ordinance, admitted that he doesn't understand "all apps," but he understands this one just fine.

Translation: I don't understand it but lets ban it anyways without me knowing what I am actually doing.

I get his point.. but really. People who have no clue about how technology works should not be making the rules.

What are you talking about?

This statement:

he doesn't understand "all apps," but he understands this one just fine.

Probably applies to 99.9% of the people who have ever used a smartphone.

Crap, I made $100 on my own

Crap, I made $100 on my own space this weekend with Haystack. This sucks for no effort cash. Back to craigslist for renting my spot then. :(

There is another app called

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There is another app called SPOT for renting out your private space by the hour, day, month, etc. It's pretty slick.

Who do they fine?

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Who, exactly, do they fine?

My initial feelings are that a) that this app will cause a lot of problems with people on their phones when they should be focused on driving along busy city streets, and b) the company's argument that they are selling info, not spaces, could win in court.

But regardless, I have problems seeing how the City Council has jurisdiction or how can actually make any fines stick.

Was this included in the discussion or in the actual language the city council signed?

Its the same as if the app

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Its the same as if the app was for prostitution. They can fine the company for knowingly facilitating a crime (while benefiting from it) and fine the perps (johns or in this case people selling their spots).


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Is it a crime? Can you get arrested for selling information about an open parking spot to someone? Not quite the same as an app that connected prostitutes and johns...

Not all crimes are arrestable

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Not all crimes are arrestable offenses. And its not just selling the information, its selling the information AND holding a public way for private gain, which the new law says will be illegal. Of course its not the same as prostitution, with prostitution 2 people aren't affecting anyone else by their behavior, whereas this increases the price of parking on public ways.

there's also other issues

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What about a parking spot dispute because someone feels they have a right to a spot because they "paid for it" or the person won't leave because they're making money but only if a specific person parks there. If I were driving around downtown looking for parking spot and got to one first, I'd be plenty pissed if someone were holding it for profit or blocking me from going in (or confronting me for "stealing" "their" spot). First come, first served.

Haystack's workaround

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The workaround for Haystack is to negotiate a contract to kickback 10% of revenue to the city. That's how the city treats towing companies.

This is dumb

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1) Haystack isn't renting city spaces. It's letting one person pay another person for information regarding the availability of parking spaces. It's no different than if I were to call my buddy and tell him that I'm leaving my space in a second if he wants it, except instead of my buddy it's a random stranger and they're giving me $3 (or whatever) to hear from me. It's the same problem as AirBNB and UberX...they aren't running a taxi service or a hotel chain, they're just a listing service letting people tell other people when they're available. So, this isn't an anti-Haystack regulation. It's an anti-Haystack users regulation.

2) Haystack users aren't renting spaces, they're selling their time. I could drive away from my space at any time that I'm ready to do so as long as I've legally fed the meter as required by the city. If I choose to leave now or 15 minutes from now after I've met someone who asks me to leave so they can park there is entirely up to me. I could stay there another 20 minutes and tell them to piss off if I've paid the meter legally. They are paying me to kindly move my car for their benefit. They could just as easily pay me to let them take my space in line at the City Hall parking ticket window. They can't write a law to say that I have to leave that parking space except when my meter legally runs out. Until that point, when I leave is my prerogative. When I leave, the person arriving is going to have to pay the meter just the same whether he paid me via Haystack to know the space was opening up or not. Thus, I'm not gaining rent or lease for the space, the city is the entire time.

Finally, this is going to complicate a lot of scenarios unless they all get called the "city's designees". I don't know all the legalities on this one, but what happens when someone reserves space on a city street for a moving truck? What happens when a 3rd-party construction site reserves space to do its work? What happens when the Red Sox rent space to vendors on Yawkey Way while the street is in their loan? As others mentioned already, what happens when you put a space saver in the street after you shovel from snowing? Hell, the act of simply parking on a street is "reserving" the space for your use while your car is there if you're going to use that terminology to apply to Haystack users. Thus, ANYONE parking is reserving the space for their own use and EVERY car parked on the street should be issued a $250 ticket immediately.

This whole regulation doesn't do what it's intended to and appears to step on legitimate functions we were already doing.

Yeah, I think they wrote the wrong ordinance

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I think your description is basically correct of what Haystack appears to do. Its like calling your friend and telling them you are going to leave the space you are in and, for $3.00 you will wait until they get there so they can put their car in it. I don't see why that would be, or should be, illegal. What the City should do is write an ordinance preventing people from using Haystack for commercial purposes - for example a valet service parking people's cars up and down a street and using Haystack to get people to pay them to move the cars. You can envision this kind of thing happening with any individual or company that owns cars that are not used all of the time (taxis, livery companies, etc.). It would be a pretty good racket. They should also write an ordinance to make sure that it prevents people who paid for the space from claiming that they are entitled to the space against someone who gets to the space before them and didn't reserve it. The app may simply not accomodate this kind of thing anyway.

cities take offense when you

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cities take offense when you can make a living holding their spaces hostage all day. Which, in SF, you apparently can. Boston is scared of having the same situation.

It's letting one person pay

It's letting one person pay another person for information regarding the availability of parking spaces. It's no different than if I were to call my buddy and tell him that I'm leaving my space in a second if he wants it, except instead of my buddy it's a random stranger and they're giving me $3 (or whatever) to hear from me.

That's like saying "It's no different than if I were to call my buddy and ask her if she wants to fuck. The only difference is that it's a random stranger and they're giving me $400."

Yes, and?

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You don't know that person's stance on the legality of prostitution. For what it's worth, Rhode Island had a legalized form of prostitution for quite some time and they somehow survived. Nevada still does in places...I have yet to see the earth open up and send them all to hell.

That's beside the point. The

That's beside the point. The point is that if it's illegal, it's still illegal if you use an app to facilitate it, and it's different than performing the same action with a friend for free. Personally, I have no moral objection to prostitution but think that space saving should be a capital offense.

Except it isn't illegal

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It's not illegal for me to call my buddy and tell him I'll make it easier for him to find parking if he needs it.

The only word of the regulation that even applies to that situation is "reserve" and the act of paying a meter is itself a reservation of the space for your own use. The only distinction is whether when someone asks you to move your car you say "No, I'm reserving it from my friend" or "No, I'm not done using it yet".

The city says "this parking space is worth $0.25 every 12 minutes. In no way does my parking there, waiting for someone else to come along, and then moving at the same time they arrive change that rate. There is no rental or leasing of the space going on except for the $0.25 every 12 minutes that the city gets when there's a car present there. Reserving the space is what space savers do. Putting something that isn't a paying car in a parking space and then moving it only when the right person comes along is reserving a space.

What isn't reserving a space is parking a car in a parking space, paying the $0.25 per 12 minutes within the upper limits of the meter, and leaving whenever you feel is the appropriate time for you. Because if we've somehow changed the regulations to make THAT act illegal then EVERY car at EVERY meter is illegal.

Speaking of valet

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Does this mean valet can't reserve curb space just to park their cars now?