Parking parvenu or parasite?

The Boston Business Journal reports the city council could try to ban Haystack, an app that lets users alert others about parking spaces they're leaving. Haystack's tyro of a CEO direly warns that if the council does this, it is consigning Boston to become a provincial backwater of Luddite mistanthropes melancholically wallowing in the past, or words to that effect.

The council replies nobody's going to be making any money off our metered spaces but the city.



Free tagging: 


$3 - really

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So I post that I'm going to pull out of my spot for $3? And then I'm going to stick around until somebody shows up (supposedly the person who paid for the spot - and what if he/she isn't that person?). Not worth most people's time

I see this developing as professional "Haystackers" that make a living trading spots - sell one - find another and collecting $12-$15 an hour. I also see massive fistfights and violence breaking out.

The "tyro" says:

“There’s no sale of physical property,” Eric Meyer said. “This is neighbors exchanging information for a fee, and they have every right to do that. What you’re really paying for is convenience.”

So when you pull out and somebody (not the person that bought the spot) pulls in - do you get in a giant hissy fit because somebody took your $3?

I don't see this working. Maybe in Manhattan -for like $20 a spot - but not in Boston. Drive around for a few minutes and some hairdresser will be moving their car down the street. Now, if he can figure out how to get me a spot on the non-street cleaning side of the street after 5 pm the night before - he might have something.


Oh, I don't know...

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Many were the days where people have offered me money to leave my spot on Newbury while waiting for clients. Mainly because when I'm there in my Suburban, the Range Rover crowd always looks for the bigger spaces.

But you didn't leave, did you

But you didn't leave, did you?

I think Stevil's point is that for three bucks, it's not worth waiting around in your space for some guy to show up. It would obviously be worth three bucks to *get* the space, but that assumes that the person who's parked there now is willing to wait around for you to show up.

You will get people feeding

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You will get people feeding meters on entire busy streets and scalping/reserving the metered spots if this app takes off.


If they dont ban this, this

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If they dont ban this, this will lead to parasites selling other public spaces, like BBQ spots, basketball courts, or baseball diamonds in parks, spaces in lines, etc. and there will be professionals, like scalpers, who will sit on park spaces or picnic areas and try to sell them online.



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The app broadcasts your location. It would not be hard to sting this anti-social behavior.

Don't fight 'em, join 'em.

You can't fight apps like this, nor should you. There is no reason why Boston should be charging well below market rates for parking. It only invites someone to figure out a way to pocket the difference for themselves.

Boston should adopt usage-based parking meters where the price is dependent upon demand. When there is almost no available spots, charge $10+/hr to park. When there is hardly anyone around, charge $0.25/hr.

This encourages people to park on non-peak times by giving them a discount and encourages high turn-over during peak periods to keep more spaces open.


These are public parking

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These are public parking spaces; the parking spot, the meter were put there with taxes. The spaces are maintained and plowed in the winter with the public's tax money. So the public should have a say in whether they should be charged the same for the space as a private market rate garage would charge.. And likely they'd say they shouldn't.
Also, public works shouldn't charge a market rate for trash collection..... not should the BPD charge you a market rate if you need them.

How Could The City Actually "Ban" Any Type Of App?

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I mean, really, what would they do? Arrest people who use it? How could it be enforced, except by monitoring people's online activity?

I suppose they could try to sue the software company; file some sort of "cease and desist" order against them; but under what grounds? Users aren't selling parking spaces, they're just selling real-time information, and there's nothing illegal about doing that, nor should there be!

Even if they're successful in making Haystack go away, undoubtedly, other apps will come along that do the same thing and/or facilitate even more interactions between individuals. I just don't see how the City of Boston can regulate what apps people can or cannot use.


just a guess

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I agree. I don't see how this would be enforceable because you would need to catch the person doing it. And then of course the whole PD touching your phone and looking for the app (sans a warrant) comes into play, which is a no no. So it would come down to (costly) sting operations, and we know how well those work (*cough* handicap placards *cough*). So It would be completely ineffective to try to police and ticket. Minus the app, its nothing worse than holding a spot for a friend.

I just don't see how they can do it, except frown upon it.

Probably by way of an

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Probably by way of an injunction. That's the only way to enforce a ban. I haven't put much thought into the legal merits of a lawsuit the city could file against the app... just pointing out the means.

I don't get the appeal of this

Aside from the blustering and grandstanding, I just don't get it.

If I'm driving and street spots are scarce, I either find a garage or hoof it from a more remote location.

Otherwise, if I think parking will be an issue, I don't drive.

Hardly rocket science, no?


But it's an

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APP. So it stands to reason that, if you use it, your parking problems will instantly and automatically be solved for the rest of your life.



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Yeah, Swirly, what's the point of living your life if you can't have routine parts of your life, including the use of public services, commoditized by rent-seeking Silicon Valley dilettantes?

What prevents people from

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What prevents people from broadcasting fake empty parking spots, thereby making the data so bad that the app is unusable? Not suggesting anything here, really. I swear.


All it would take would be

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All it would take would be for a competitor to come in and sabotage each other, the way Uber is doing with fake ride requests to Lyft. Let the parasites kill each other off.

Do you people read?

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I'm not offering an opinion either way on the app, but the articles and FAQs about it explain that the person leaving the space puts it up for "sale," then the person who wants it reserves it, then the new person lets the payment go through once they've secured the spot for themselves. They encourage you to "play nice" and emphasize that parking spots are public and if someone is waiting for the spot you're leaving, you shouldn't harass them and you just cancel your Haystack transaction marking the spot as taken.

I suppose you *could* reserve a spot, park there, then say you didn't and could refuse to pay, but you also *could* do this with pretty much any business transaction, and most people don't. The app relies on GPS, so people wanting to falsify data would have to physically be in or really near a parking spot in a scarce area. Doesn't seem worth it.

So you couldn't make money by

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So you couldn't make money by posting fake spots. But you could waste buyers' time and make the whole thing less useful.

this is how niave i am

I honestly thought people used this app to tell people about parking spaces they were leaving just to be cool. I had no idea that it was for a fee.

Wait, what?

Why would somebody use the app instead of Haystack? Just for the warm, fuzzy feeling?

Free inside scoop

Because why pay several dollars each time to park if you can get the same info for nothing? If you built a system whereby people who announce they are leaving a spot (for free) get priority notices when a new spot is opening in the future, you might be able to build up a large enough base of users that get the same benefit for no fee.


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If I'm getting $3 to tell someone when I'm leaving my space so they can have it instead, then I'm getting $3 (probably as much as I paid, making my use of the space free to me).

If I'm supposed to login to tell some other app user, hey, free space here, then two problems occur for your system to overtake Haystack:

1) I'm not going to wait to find out if some Freestack user shows up to take the space making it useless to tell them its free since I won't be there to guarantee their arrival over any other person's.

2) I'm not going to login to tell people about parking spaces without more incentive than intrinsic feel-goods especially since #1 says I may not even get the feel-goods if I leave the space too soon.

The cash is key to Haystack being used. If it's too low, you get no spaces for offer. If it's too high, you get no offers for spaces.

It's not about feeling good

It's about convenience. It's possible to set it up such that if you share your pending vacancy with another user (just as you would with Haystack), then you get priority notice the next time you need a space and some other user is about to give theirs up. Same as Haystack, except no cost. I know that the incentive with Haystack is to make money, but really I think people are more motivated to #1 find a spot, and #2 save money than they are to make a few piddly dollars by selling their spot. And if I could get the same parking benefit without spending extra bucks, I'd take it.

Frankly, I think Haystack's whole business model is going to flop. I just don't see people hanging around in their cars, waiting for someone else to show up so they can sell their spot for a few bucks. People just want to get in their cars and go. Not to mention the hassle of dealing with other drivers waiting there or asking if you're going to pull out. Oh, the arguments that will ensue.

It's possible to set it up

It's possible to set it up such that if you share your pending vacancy with another user (just as you would with Haystack), then you get priority notice the next time you need a space and some other user is about to give theirs up

But that means that the next time you have a space to give up, the app would first have to notify any "priority" users in the area and wait for a response, then, if nobody snaps it up, send the notification out to non-priority users. That could mean twice as much time spent sitting in your car, waiting to drive off, just for the possibility that you might get priority treatment next time. Seems like a non-starter to me.

How about if the city offers

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How about if the city offers (or contracts someone to offer) its own app to do the same thing? They could even build in a feature letting people claim "I shoveled this spot" to gain some control over the space-saver situation.

They could add school

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They could add school assignments too. If your neighborhood school is one a lot of people want to get their kid in, you might get priority and you could sell your kids slot to someone else. This would be especially valuable to people who were going to send their kid to private school anyway, or who were about to move.

At least you're thinking

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But unless *everyone* uses the app, then "calling it" on the app as being shoveled by you won't stop someone who doesn't use the app from parking there not knowing.

Fine Print

In fact, print so fine they don't mention it on the website, in the APP or in the TOS.

If you offer a parking space and someone claims it, you have to sit in that parking space until they arrive. If you leave the area before they arrive, Haystack charges YOU a $5 fine. And there is no limit to how long they can make you wait. They track your phone via GPS, so if you leave the area (even if you're not driving - say you go back inside or walk up the street), it assumes you have left an automatically charges you.

First time I tried using Haystack, someone claimed my packing space, then left me waiting there for a half hour. Finally got fed up and left, and arrived home to find a $5 charge on my credit card. Took a half dozen emails back and forth with customer care to get it removed, and they still were very unclear about how and when they charge people.

The whole app is shady...


Then there's your Achilles heel

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If they don't have a way for someone holding a space to "time out" someone's request (with a penalty for late arrival), then there's the answer for how to break the system.

Instead of adding a bunch of nonsense spaces, go around agreeing to spaces that are up for request so the system thinks people are inbound to the spaces and nobody else can reserve them. Then don't show up. If the person drives off like you did, then they will get hit with the $5 fee and be disgruntled enough to stop being a user who sells spaces and the whole thing crumbles.

If they can make it so a user looking to sell a space can set a time limit (like, say, whatever's left on your meter), then if the person agrees to make that timing and doesn't, then they should be liable for an equivalent penalty (and the person who waited should get their money from the fee). If that's not instituted, I don't see why anyone would agree to wait indefinitely for a few bucks. If I charge someone $3 to know when I'm leaving and I wait for them to arrive for more than 30 min, then I'm essentially working for under minimum wage (which is below where it should be anyways).

What if your phone loses a

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What if your phone loses a GPS signal?

What if you turn GPS off?

What if your phone dies?

I'm calling BS. I don't see how they can charge you a fee based on tracking your location via GPS.

I also don't see why anyone would ever take that risk if they did.

I've heard

from a few other sources about the $5 fee, though I have never used the app myself to be able to confirm