Debate Over New App To Pay For Public Parking

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Anyone who drives in Boston and eventually wants to park their car knows the feeling.

Block after block after block, minute after minute, driving around in circles searching for a parking space.

But now there's a new smartphone app, launching Thursday night, that may change that. Haystack would help a driver find parking by paying someone who is leaving the space.

And even before it launches, the app is causing a stir. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh says his administration may take steps to ban the app if it interferes with public access to parking, or artificially inflates the cost of parking.

It's the latest of several apps across the country aimed at making parking easier, but at a cost.


Eric Meyer, founder and CEO of Haystack Mobile Technologies, which tweets @HaystackParking.


On how Haystack works:
Eric Meyer: "Haystack is a simple social parking community, and it allows neighbors to say, 'Hey, I'm about to leave here,' and connect with drivers who are nearby. So, a user on Haystack — we call them Haystackers — can either offer a spot up or they can find a spot."

On how the money gets transferred:
EM: "It is seamless, cashless and convenient. So, it's similar to Uber in many aspects... Users simply can put in a credit card on file or... you [can] have a positive balance on your Haystack account. Say, last night you offered up a spot for $3 and you made a couple bucks on that, then that can go ahead and pay for your next time you need a spot. So, we're seeing a lot of neutral exchanges."

On the "make me move" option:
EM: "Let's say there's a neighbor who's parked for a completely legitimate reason, no reason to make money, but they're willing to inconvenience themselves for somebody who really, really is in desperate need of a spot — and we have all been in those situations before... So then you can say, 'Hey, I'm willing to move my car for $5 or $7 tonight if you really need a place to park.' "

On bidding:
EM: "There's no bidding at all involved in Haystack. Haystack is a very simple solution — it's a one-touch solution for folks who are actively looking for a spot. So there's no bidding at all... The 'make me move' cap is $5 to $15 and that's set with one tap from the offerer."

On push back from the city:
EM: "This city has done a pilot with Streetline, and what Streetline does is embed sensors in the ground and in meters and it only alerts people who have an app of where areas may be easier to park... There's no financial exchange, there but it's a huge tax capital expenditure of the city. So, in a way, the entire city's having to subsidize this. Haystack is great because those who only need parking are the ones that are going to be having these small transactions."


Boston Magazine: Why Boston Allows Uber But Opposes Haystack

  • "The City of Boston has come out strongly against Haystack, a newly launching phone app that lets users pay to reserve another user’s public parking spot, and the comparisons abound between that app and Uber, another transportation-focused app that’s faced pushback from cities where it operates. So the question arises: is this the same kind of case? Should fans of Uber, the smartphone app that hails private drivers to your location, turn out in droves to protest regulations of another app facing city scrutiny?"

This segment aired on July 16, 2014.


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