Haystack Pushes Back Against Proposed Ordinance That Would Outlaw the Parking App

Jim Hodgson jokes that he had just found a parking space using his mind.
Jim Hodgson jokes that he had just found a parking space using his mind. –Jim Davis/Boston Globe

Haystack, an app that allows people to block off public parking spaces except to other users who are willing to pay a fee to access it, and that nobody in Boston appears to be using, has drawn the ire of some members of Boston’s City Council.

Councilor Frank Baker has filed an ordinance that says: “No person or entity other than the City of Boston and any of its departments or designees shall have the authority to sell, lease, reserve, or facilitate the reserving of any street, way, highway, road or parkway, or portion thereof under the City of Boston’s control.’’


Doing so would result in a $250 fine per violation.

The administration of Mayor Martin Walsh has spoken out twice against the app, saying its usage amounts to the sale of public property. However, Boston’s existing regulations do not explicitly outlaw such services.

The ordinance was sent to the Chamber on Neighborhood Services and Veteran Affairs, and received some vocal support at today’s council meeting, BostInno reports. At least one city councilor, and another former councilor, were less quick to dismiss Haystack at the company’s launch party earlier this month. (Another politician, State Rep. Jay Livingstone, fully endorsed Haystack at the party but seemed more or less unaware of how the app worked. You can read about that here.)

The language would suggest the proposed ordinance, if passed, would affect the controversial cultural institution in some neighborhooods that are space savers come next winter’s first significant snowfall. However, a spokesperson for Baker tells Boston.com the intention is to target reservation systems that involve payment.

Update: Haystack CEO Eric Meyer has issued a statement in response to the proposed ordinance, doubling down on the iffy notion that its users don’t sell access to parking spaces, just information:


“Hundreds of neighbors in Boston have successfully exchanged information about parking with Haystack and enjoyed a simpler way to find spots while reducing emissions and traffic congestion.

“Haystack does not sell, lease or reserve parking spots, but rather allows neighbors to exchange information about parking. And neighbors have every right to share information with one another.

“While we are unaware of this ordinance and will need to study it further, any attempt to deny Boston residents access to such information is a step backwards in reaching our common goal of simpler streets and parking innovation for city residents.

“We remain optimistic that cities and innovative companies can and will work together to take the stress and inefficiencies out of urban parking.’’

BetaBoston’s Dennis Keohane has his own response to Meyer’s statement, including a note that Meyer had previously said thousands of Bostonians were using the app.

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