San Francisco already fought off the scourge of predatory parking apps, successfully getting MonkeyParking and ParkModo to suspend their parking spot auctioning services. But the Street Parking Arbitrage Revolution is just gaining steam on the East Coast, and Bostonians are fucking pissed.
Baltimore resident Eric Meyer unveiled Haystack in May to his hometown. Its premise is the same as the apps banned by San Francisco: park your car on the street, load up the app, advertise your space, and sell your spot to whichever poor bastard is circling the neighborhood.
However, the app transcends MonkeyParking's level of public-space exploitation. Unlike San Francisco's various predatory apps, Haystack specifically offers a "Make-Me-Move" feature:
Not planning on heading out, but willing to move your car for the right price? Offer your spot for extended time during the most in-demand hours to help your neighbors who need it most.
This service hasn't sat well with Bostonians. When Haystack announced its planned expansion into the city, the company assured the public—much like MonkeyParking did in San Francisco—that they weren't selling parking spaces, just access to "parking availability information." But the Boston Globe's Adam Vaccaro was quick to call bullshit.
That's an iffy claim, at best, because by Haystack's own admission the user does not get paid unless the spot is actually exchanged.
And the claim grows even more ridiculous when you look beyond the app's basic functionality, which puts a flat fee on paying for the information, and consider its "Make Me Move" feature. With that system, users seeking parking can pay a rate chosen by the parked user for a spot that the other user isn't planning to vacate but would for the right price. [...] If that's not paying for a public parking spot, what is?
Local politicians soon got into the fray. According to the Globe, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh accused Haystack of "artificially inflating parking prices and giving some drivers an unfair advantage over others." In a statement, the Mayor signals that Haystack is destined to become the next outlaw app:
(The Boston Transportation Department), the entity with exclusive statutory authority to regulate the flow of traffic and manage parking in the City of Boston, ensures fair and equal access to public resources. As such, BTD will continue to evaluate any and all systems that may infringe upon the public's right to equal access and/or those that may artificially inflate the cost of spaces on Boston roadways and in municipal off-street parking lots, and BTD will take appropriate measures to prohibit any such app that is determined to do so.
Meyer was undeterred by the Mayor's threats, ultimate launching Haystack in Boston on July 17th with a party "right out of the HBO show Silicon Valley."