Post-Haystack Boston warms to parking apps

October 2, 2014

With the announcement last week that Boston would be partnering with TicketZen, an app that lets users pay parking tickets via barcode, the city showed mobile developers a friendly side absent when it kicked the Haystack app to the curb.


Haystack’s app – which established an interpersonal market for parking spots – was quickly declared illegal in Boston, but other apps are springing up to take its place. From Haystack.

Back then—just two months ago—the city forbade the startup from continuing operations. Debuting its app in July, the company had invited users to idle in parking spots until they could be auctioned to other motorists looking for parking. That business model effectively encouraged drivers to treat public property as a private resource for their own gain, a practice Boston slapped down with an ordinance in August.

At the time, the media reported that council members had sworn to enact initiatives “to leverage technology to improve the parking situation in the city,” but it was unclear what such a promise would entail.

Boston revealed its intentions when it unveiled its partnership with TicketZen. Although the app won’t make citations any more fun to receive, it might relieve the headache of actually paying them.

In fact, the city has discussed partnering with StreetParkd, another startup with an app that helps drivers sidestep the citations TicketZen makes it easier to pay. By serving as a repository for all the many parking rules that bedevil Boston motorists, who can grow frazzled by signage that appear to conflict one another, StreetParkd aims to provide cities with a strategy for better managing their parking regulations.

The app has yet to launch, and an alliance with Boston has not been formally recognized—indeed, Haystack also met with city officials before Mayor Marty Walsh publicly derided its app. There’s no guarantee that StreetParkd won’t be similarly dumped unceremoniously by the city.

For now, the city is keeping its options open. In a statement released by mayoral spokesperson Kate Norton, the press was told: “We welcome and encourage app developers and entrepreneurs to approach the City as potential partners, and we regularly engage in discussions about creative approaches to solve any issues with City services.”

Boston is currently exploring other methods of paying for metered parking via smartphone. In other words, the city is focused on apps that collect revenue, like TicketZen. While that approach won’t benefit drivers, it does signal Boston’s interest in parking technology innovations, an attitude befitting a region known for industry breakthroughs and venture-capital largesse.

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Category: Parking Tech, Regulations

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