Local News
8:33 am
Wed July 16, 2014

Haystack Clashes With Boston Mayor Over Pay-For-Public Parking App

The Haystack parking app is displayed on an iPhone.

Many of us have been there — circling the block over and over in search of a parking spot. It’s a pain, but hey, that’s city livin’, right?

It doesn’t have to be that way, says Eric Meyer, CEO of Haystack, which makes an app that alerts drivers when a parking space opens up.

Here’s how it works: Say you’re heading out of a restaurant or shop. You tap into the app that you’re on your way out. Haystack’s GPS technology knows your car’s exact location, so it then alerts other users in the area that a spot is opening up. The first driver to respond gets to claim that space and when he or she shows up within the time frame you said you’d hold the spot, you get paid $3.

And that’s a problem, says Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

"It’s a neat idea, but the problem is that it’s a public space," he said. "They’re holding spots on a public street and selling them, for all intents and purposes, to people. It’s a private enterprise selling public space. You just can’t have that and we’re not going to allow that in the city of Boston."

The mayor says he’s exploring the potential legal issues of how apps like Haystack can infringe equal access to public parking spaces. Meyer insists they’re not selling space, but simply helping people share information.

"The space belongs to the people of Boston and we’re not selling space," he said. "Neighbors have every right to exchange information and that’s exactly what they’re doing."

Meyer said the app helps "neighbors" save time and avoid wasting gas. 

Haystack supporters, like former Boston city councilor Mike Ross, says apps like this could be good for the economy.

"Getting people out of their cars faster into society or the economy should be a good thing, and I think it is," Ross said at the Haystack launch party on Tuesday night. "Anyone who has a problem with this and yet is okay with 'Let’s place a toilet in the middle of the street in South Boston, so that we can preserve a parking space'-- that’s just inconsistent."

Boston isn’t the only city contending with smartphone parking apps. Just last week, the city of San Francisco ordered a company to shut down its operation, which was earning drivers up to $20 to save parking spaces.

But as more parking apps pop up across the country, it looks like this is one trend that will continue to circle the block until it finds the right space — or run out of gas.

The CEO of Haystack, Eric Meyer, discussed the app on Greater Boston: