Baltimore-Designed Haystack App Starts Trouble in Boston

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Haystack

A Baltimore-designed parking app that brokers the sale of parking spaces merely incentivizes the exchange of useful information has been making waves way up I-95.

When Haystack debuted in Baltimore in May, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was tentatively supportive, even posing for a picture at the launch party. Our parking authority is waiting to see how the app works out before passing judgment. Haystack got quite a different reception in Boston, where it launched a couple weeks ago. Mayor Marty Walsh released multiple press releases condemning the app and vowed to “take appropriate measures to prohibit” it.

The app works like this. Let’s say you are parked downtown. A few minutes before you plan to vacate your spot, you notify Haystack users who are cruising for parking in the area. If a driver wants your spot, she pays $3 to reserve it. You get $2.25. Haystack takes 75 cents. Further, let’s say you’re not planning to leave your spot for a while, but you’d move for the right price. You can set a “make me move” amount up to $15. But the really incredible thing is that somehow this does not add up to the private sale of public property, according to Haystack CEP Eric Meyer.

Haystack says it will benefit the environment and alleviate congestion as drivers will spend less time cruising for parking (which accounts for something like 30 percent of downtown traffic at any given time). But it’s not necessarily that simple. And Boston media have hosted argument after argument over the potential problems with the app. Setting aside the basic issue of inflating the price of parking, will it encourage drivers to hold spots longer as they wait for buyers? Is it dangerous — even illegal — for drivers to check their phones while they cruise for parking? Will drivers occupy spots for the sole purpose of scalping them? What happens if someone comes to claim your spot before your purchaser gets there? What if you leave because your purchaser is a no-show? (The answer to the last question is you get charged $5, according to one Yelp user.)

At this point, these problems are largely hypothetical. It seems not enough Bostonians use the app yet to make it useful.

Has anyone tried to use it in Baltimore?



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