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Cellphones Software The Almighty Buck Transportation

San Francisco Bans Parking Spot Auctioning App 404

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-tech-for-you dept.
A couple months ago, we discussed a new phone app being used in San Francisco to auction off parking spaces to the highest bidder. The city has now ordered the app makers to cease and desist, and threatened motorists with a $300 fine for each transaction. City Attorney Dennis Herrera said, Technology has given rise to many laudable innovations in how we live and work -- and Monkey Parking is not one of them. It's illegal, it puts drivers on the hook for $300 fines, and it creates a predatory private market for public parking spaces that San Franciscans will not tolerate. Worst of all, it encourages drivers to use their mobile devices unsafely — to engage in online bidding wars while driving. People are free to rent out their own private driveways and garage spaces should they choose to do so. But we will not abide businesses that hold hostage on-street public parking spots for their own private profit.
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San Francisco Bans Parking Spot Auctioning App

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  • Communism (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @01:36PM (#47307659)

    Banning this is communism!
    This is the free market at work.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Parking spots are the means of production?
      I don't think so.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dunkindave (1801608)

      Banning this is communism! This is the free market at work.

      Standard Oil crushing their competition by offering gas at below cost was "free market". Microsoft refusing to license Windows to a vendor unless they not offer other operating systems was "free market". Stock traders creating derivatives that collapsed the housing market was "free market". Slave traders were "free market". The term "free market" can be interpreted as meaning allowing a person to do any business deal without interference from the government, whether morally right or not. The purpose of

      • by mattack2 (1165421)

        The slave trade obviously violates the rights of the slaves. I think most people ignore the mortgage *recipients* who fraudulently signed mortgages they weren't qualified for (stated too high of an income, etc.) and were unable to pay, thus being unable to pay the mortgage. (I think the companies that made the fraudulent mortgages, and sold the derivatives while betting against them were wrong too.)

        The other two examples, however.. even if I don't personally agree with them, why shouldn't they be allowed?

      • by Ichijo (607641)

        it delays the person's departure thereby reducing effective parking availability.

        Yes, but it also eliminates the parking shortage for as long as that parking space is on the market. Remember, a shortage [wikipedia.org] is when you can't buy something at any price, so when you put a price on a parking space when all other spaces are filled, you've temporarily eliminated the shortage of parking spaces.

        [Using] phones while driving which in San Francisco is a crime...

        No it isn't [sfgate.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @01:38PM (#47307695)

    It's based on holding public space hostage.

  • Specific practices like driver using phone while driving, or curb parking time limits can certainly be regulated. But not the basic fact of people exchanging money for information. Dislike it all you want, but people have freedom to do as they want.

    • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @01:42PM (#47307737) Journal

      It occurs to me that knowing where a parking space is available would reduce time spent driving around, itself reducing pollution, excess expenditure on additional fuel, the clogging of streets, and other issues associated with tons of traffic driving in circles throughout the city.

      These people are providing the city the great and valuable service of a functional smart parking grid operating when parking congestion is high.

      • These people are providing the city the great and valuable service of a functional smart parking grid operating when parking congestion is high.

        And all they need to accomplish this great service is sell rights to property they don't own. I wonder how much cell reception in your neighborhood would improve if I sold verizon the rights to demolish your house and put a cell tower in it's place?

        • I got a tetanus vaccination last week so that my constant work in the garden won't lead to my unpleasant not-quite-death. And all I needed was a poke in the arm, which was extremely unpleasant, but oh well.

          Here are your options:

          Default: drive around for hours on clogged streets, not able to get anywhere. Get close to your destination, spend 20 minutes circling the surrounding 3 blocks twice, determine this isn't getting you anywhere. Spend 10 more minutes getting further out. Park, walk for 20 mor

      • by whoever57 (658626) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @02:27PM (#47308199) Journal

        These people are providing the city the great and valuable service of a functional smart parking grid operating when parking congestion is high.

        There seems to be an unwritten premise behind your claim that the space would be unused if it were not for this app. In fact, the reverse is true -- likely the driver "selling" the space will remain in place longer than necesssary so that he/she can sell the parking space. Without the ability to sell a space, it will be vacated more quickly and then immediately filled by another driver who happens to be driving by (because there is a shortage of parking).

        • The space going unused isn't the problem; the space being in use *is* the problem.

          In a parking shortage, you have two shortages: one of parking spaces and one of information. The shortage of information causes the problems associated with parking shortage.

          In short: the driver who immediately fills your parking space finds it by luck. The more severe the parking shortage, the more cumulative distance that driver has driven (i.e. in circles) trying to find a spot by luck. Rather than circling the bl

          • Here are some questions about your so called solution:

            How do people without access to the auctioning app get access to what is essentially public parking?

            Why should someone pay a third party to have a chance to use public parking?

            There are other solutions available to the city of San Francisco that doesn't require the use of an auctioning app.

            • How do people without access to the auctioning app get access to what is essentially public parking?

              The same way anyone else does: don't try to park when people want to go out. In the current situation, it's extremely likely that you'll leave on Friday or Saturday night at 7pm, show up at 7:30, and drive around until 8pm or even 9pm trying to find a parking spot within half a mile of the night life joints. Public parking is inaccessible because it's scarce; this scarcity also denies access to public roadways. This solution frees up some access to roadways, and lets you find out how much parking is be

      • by stephanruby (542433) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @02:43PM (#47308359)

        No, the city already has parking motion detectors on their parking meters that can detect when a street parking space is vacated and the city also makes available a free real-time api that third party developers can use for republishing that information (for free, or even for a profit if those third party desire). There are already several apps on the market that do this (that the city has no problem with)

        What this particular app encouraged was to keep parking spaces occupied, until a particular ransom was paid. This meant that cars with disabled placards (which are not required to pay anything, and not required to move by a certain time) would have the incentive to hold a parking space indefinitely until they got paid. And this also meant that some business storefront owners could hold spaces by placing junk/furniture/pots of flowers on a parking space, so that no other car could pull into it unless they got paid off as well.

        Unfortunately, holding parking spaces illegally is already a common practice in San Francisco (even before that mobile application came on the market). Regularly, business owners are caught painting the curb of their sidewalks in front of their store with green, yellow, or red, without having the proper city permits to do so (those illegal markings can be distinguished because they're not stamped with the usual SFPD and the red markings around storefronts/private driveways usually extend far more than they're supposed to).

        • We have nothing like that here. Parking spaces don't have smart grids. San Francisco appears unique in this aspect; in Baltimore, it would be a high expense that the city cannot undertake.

          My experience with parking congestion is limited to Baltimore's Inner Harbor. In this scenario, the streets are filled with cars so much that a pedestrian OUTWALKS them; I am annoyed at the slow pace of traffic when on my bicycle but, fortunately, most of Pratt carries a bike and bus lane on the right. I'm going 30m

      • by PapayaSF (721268)

        It occurs to me that knowing where a parking space is available would reduce time spent driving around, itself reducing pollution, excess expenditure on additional fuel, the clogging of streets, and other issues associated with tons of traffic driving in circles throughout the city.

        Ah, but you are being logical and not ecological. It has been official policy in SF for years to "get people out of their cars" by any means. This includes intentionally removing parking places [streetsblog.org] (more [sfcitizen.com], more [savepolkstreet.com]), and even preventing new construction from having more than one parking space per unit [livablecity.org].

    • by Firethorn (177587) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @01:43PM (#47307749) Homepage Journal

      But not the basic fact of people exchanging money for information.

      It falls back to 'holding a public space hostage' the moment the seller stays in his spot any longer than he would have without the application in order to get said money/allow the buyer the spot. I believe that the application amounts to being worthless if the seller doesn't hold the space for the buyer, because in my experience somebody will pull into the spot less than a minute later without any intervention.

      This leads to less efficient use of space due to lingering, which is what the city wants to avoid.

      • by iamacat (583406)

        On the subject of holding public spaces hostage, I wonder what you think of occupy movement and all the other protests, which are especially common in San Francisco?

        Practically speaking, if parking spaces are popular, seller will not have to hold them for long. Since the buyer also has the app installed, he/she will have incentive to leave sooner, during prime time, to make the money back.

        • by Yebyen (59663)

          You think the same people are both buying and selling spaces? I envision a person driving around looking for spaces all day and pulling into them, bringing up the app on their way back from the newsstand to re-sell the space as soon as they have secured one for free/with some delay so as to promote some appearance of not being a plain old squatter abusing the commons and rent-seeking with free public resources. A second person with more money than time enables him by installing the app and buying the spac

        • by Firethorn (177587)

          I wonder what you think of occupy movement and all the other protests, which are especially common in San Francisco?

          Complicated. Keep in mind that the situations varied by different locations. Still, on average I believe that they enjoy more protection simply by being explicitly political/non-monetary in nature. For that matter they probably had those locations more highly populated/used than normal.

          Where I start drawing the line is where they start causing damage.

          Since the buyer also has the app installed, he/she will have incentive to leave sooner, during prime time, to make the money back.

          It also gives incentive to be a professional parking-keeper if the rates are high enough. Drive around looking for a spot. Take it, immediately list &

        • by pr0fessor (1940368) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @02:34PM (#47308263)

          I pay taxes that are used to build and maintain roads including public parking, why on earth would I allow a third party to make money off public parking if it's not re-invested into the road system (hopefully to address problems with parking).

          • by Rockoon (1252108)

            why on earth would I allow a third party to make money off public parking if it's not re-invested into the road system

            You mean why on earth would you allow the tow truck driver that removes a car thats been parked in a spot too long to make money off public parking?

        • by TheLink (130905)

          As long as voters can still vote and elections aren't terribly rigged/diebolded, I don't really consider protests that hold public spaces hostage a good thing. It's fine if they rented out a public space (stadium or field) for their "event".

          If you want to protest publicly you could wear a particular hat, shirt, colored item, etc as a sign of protest and move about without preventing others from going about their normal daily lives. Causing massive disruption does not endear me to your cause. If you let rand

          • by AK Marc (707885)
            The right to peaceably assemble is fine, so long as there's no place to legally do so.
        • On the subject of holding public spaces hostage, I wonder what you think of occupy movement and all the other protests, which are especially common in San Francisco?

          False equivalence.

          Sitting in one spot in the park for 3 days is not the same thing as sitting in one spot in the park for three days, demanding that anyone else who wants to use said spot has to pay you to leave.

          Having to pay people a ransom to vacate public spaces is probably not a precedent we want to set.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rob Y. (110975)

        Who's going to prevent the fistfights when someone spots you getting into your car and waits for you to leave the space - and you just sit there. If I'm waiting for you to move and somebody else pulls up who insists on taking the space 'because he paid for it', it's not going to be pretty.

    • by MarkvW (1037596) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @01:44PM (#47307759)

      "People have the freedom to do as they want."

      Your opinion will change when you grow up.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You completely missed the point.

      People would deliberately find prime parking places and park there, then use the app to get money to relenquish their parking spot. It turned a public resource, something paid for by tax dollars, into something you had to pay an individual to get access to.

      It's the same as domain name squatting. It was a completely fucked up and greedy concept.

      Please use your brain and actually think about things before posting.

    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      Seems to me they're banning the sale of something you don't own, which sounds a lot like stealing.
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        I think stealing is a little incorrect here.

        I am currently legally occupying a place, because I've paid the parking meter or am still within the period I can be parked for free.

        What I'm selling you is the information that, for the next 20 minutes, the opportunity for you to get dibs on legally occupying the same space is up for grabs.

        Now, understandably, if you had a whole bunch of people who camped out on these spots first thing in the morning and sold the spot to the highest bidder then nobody could ever

        • by TheLink (130905)

          It's more like hoarding: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

          A feature of hoarding is that it leads to an inefficient distribution of scarce resources, making the scarcity even more of a problem

          It's in the interests of the city to have parking spaces that are used for only as long as they are needed.

          Allowing this "auctioning" thing causes parking spaces to be held longer than otherwise just so that someone can try to make money from it.

          There is no significant increase in efficiency if parking spaces are in great demand - the moment you leave your spot, someone else is likely to take it. And even if there is some inefficiency there are othe

        • I think stealing is a little incorrect here.

          I am currently legally occupying a place, because I've paid the parking meter or am still within the period I can be parked for free.

          What I'm selling you is the information that, for the next 20 minutes, the opportunity for you to get dibs on legally occupying the same space is up for grabs.

          You don't get to "call dibs" on public space; this isn't fucking pre-school, there are no frontsies, backsies, or seat-savies in adult life.

          Think of it this way: would you be OK with it if I set up a roadblock between the street you live on and the next, and demanded you pay me $50 to pass my checkpoint? Because that's essentially what this app does: encourages people to illegally squat on public land, then try to fleece the rest of the population by forcing them to pay for the privilege of parking in a spa

          • by gstoddart (321705)

            Think of it this way: would you be OK with it if I set up a roadblock between the street you live on and the next

            Except, it's nothing like that.

            If I'm parked in a parking space, and will be vacating it soon, I'm not denying you access to it, because it's not available to you at the moment. What I'm selling is the fact that I will be vacating it.

            If you block me in a public street that's an entirely different thing. That is actively preventing me from doing something I'd otherwise be able to do -- you woul

    • Specific practices like driver using phone while driving, or curb parking time limits can certainly be regulated. But not the basic fact of people exchanging money for information. Dislike it all you want, but people have freedom to do as they want.

      They aren't making the exchange of info illegal. You can still say "For $30 I'll tell you where a perking spot is.." it's the "and I'll hold it for you until you arrive ..." that is illegal. I think the city is justified in this position.

      • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

        They aren't making the exchange of info illegal. You can still say "For $30 I'll tell you where a perking spot is.." it's the "and I'll hold it for you until you arrive ..." that is illegal. I think the city is justified in this position.

        Absolutely. People cannot sell things they do not own. That is public space they are trying to sell.

        And before some wag tries to write "If it's public space, I own it.

        I suggest that person try to build a house there.

      • Specific practices like driver using phone while driving, or curb parking time limits can certainly be regulated. But not the basic fact of people exchanging money for information. Dislike it all you want, but people have freedom to do as they want.

        They aren't making the exchange of info illegal. You can still say "For $30 I'll tell you where a perking spot is.." it's the "and I'll hold it for you until you arrive ..." that is illegal. I think the city is justified in this position.

        Also the "this app is only useful if you use it while behind the wheel" part. Not sure if dicking with a phone while driving is illegal in SF, but it is where I live.

    • by OzPeter (195038)

      But not the basic fact of people exchanging money for information. Dislike it all you want, but people have freedom to do as they want.

      There was already a law on the books against what this company is trying to do.

      Have you considered that there might actually be a valid use-case for such a law?

    • by PvtVoid (1252388) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @02:08PM (#47308015)

      Specific practices like driver using phone while driving, or curb parking time limits can certainly be regulated. But not the basic fact of people exchanging money for information. Dislike it all you want, but people have freedom to do as they want.

      It is illegal to exchange money for all kinds of information. Credit card and Social Security numbers, for example. Insider trading [sec.gov], for another. It continually amazes me the degree to which crackpot libertarian ideology is so consistently blind to extremely common legal practice. Do you people spend all of your time in the basement?

      Furthermore, a law banning the parking app would be trivial to enforce. Just have police answer the ads, find the douchebag who is blocking the spot in order to charge for it, tow their car, and give them a nice big ticket. Can't happen soon enough.

      • by meerling (1487879)
        I hadn't thought of that yet, but it would totally put a damper on that kind of b.s., even more so if they confiscated the car and phone. (Evidence and all that.)
        Though to be honest, I'm morally opposed to confiscation with no intent to return to the proper owners after evidentiary needs are met.
    • Dislike it all you want, but people have freedom to do as they want.

      'Free country' doesn't mean what you think it means.

      Eg:
      Free Speech Zone [wikipedia.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @01:43PM (#47307739)

    I can see this type of service continuing on.

    1: Parking spaces are in demand.
    2: People are willing to pay cash for one.
    3: Other people want money.

    All that needs to happen is that the server gets moved offshore, and the app be made as a Web app so it survives being pulled from Apple's store.

    I remember this exact same thing happening at a place I worked at when in college. They were such sticklers about being on time for shift that a second late on the phones meant a six month denial of promotions, and being late for any reason three times is an automatic termination. So, people from the neighborhood would fill this place's parking lot up about an hour before shift changed and demand cash... and the employees of this firm would pony up to a C-note in order to get a place, drive a car about a half mile from the office and park in a seedy neighborhood, or be late and stuck on the phones for another half-year with a freeze on raises.

    I applaud SF banning this app, but in reality, it won't help, and this is just the start of it. I won't be surprised to see a black market for parking spaces, with people sitting for hours to "sell" theirs, happening soon. Especially home games in university towns or other places where people go for an event.

    • All that needs to happen is that the server gets moved offshore, and the app be made as a Web app so it survives being pulled from Apple's store.

      That protects... the web server. It doesn't protect the guy on the street. And catching them is like shooting fish in a barrel.

      I won't be surprised to see a black market for parking spaces, with people sitting for hours to "sell" theirs, happening soon.

      Already protected against by signs/laws prohibiting parking for more than 'x' hours and the enforcement

    • by Obfuscant (592200)

      All that needs to happen is that the server gets moved offshore, and the app be made as a Web app so it survives being pulled from Apple's store.

      The problem with the "just move the server offshore" answer is that the system depends on having a local actor -- the person blocking the parking space until the buyer shows up. You can't outsource or offshore that part of the process.

  • by iamacat (583406) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @01:54PM (#47307869)

    Will understand that this app is a solution, not a problem. It's much safer to drive to a parking spot that you know will be available and sufficient to fit into than circling blocks for half an hour while paying more attention to the curb than traffic and pedestrians. It's city's fault for not designing streets for both residents and expected number of visitors. They shouldn't scapegoat the app for providing a service that people want.

  • Enforceable ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by markus_baertschi (259069) <{gro.sukram} {ta} {sukram}> on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @01:57PM (#47307901)

    The company is based in Italy and does not target San Francisco specifically. I don't think San Francisco has standing to sue them.

    • Re:Enforceable ? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Wycliffe (116160) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @02:08PM (#47308011) Homepage

      Is the money collected in person? Or does the spot holder wait for a specific license plate?
      Either way, a sting operation should be easy enough to set up. The spots are physically
      in SF so I don't think they can ban the app but they can certainly fine people for using this app
      or any other method to require money in order vacate a spot.

    • by mythosaz (572040)

      Plenty of standing to sue them, and win a default judgement since nobody will show up.

      Not so likely to collect on that judgement, however.

    • The company is based in Italy and does not target San Francisco specifically. I don't think San Francisco has standing to sue them.

      That doesn't matter.

      It issued them an official cease and desist letter. Now, they said they're going after the users of the system (which is going to be easy enough). How many $300 fines will it take for the users to start rating the application 1 star? Not many, I can tell you that.

      Pursuing them in a US court won't be a problem either, because once a judgment is given, the city can go after the US-based app stores that distribute their app, and they can go after the application's US-based credit card payme

  • They have the SF Park system with smart meters. They've shut down the sensors but are still doing some congestion pricing. If they just turned the sensors back on and continued to roll out smart meters to the whole city, this app would become a non-issue. The fact that it exists at all is simply an indication that parking spaces aren't priced correctly. SF Park was a huge success. They just need to keep pushing it.
  • The fact that this app exists means that parking spaces are mispriced. If they were priced correctly, there wouldn't be a black market for them.

  • One massive problem with scarce parking and no smart system to distribute it is that a lot of vehicles spend a lot of time driving in circles looking/waiting for a spot to turn over. If there were a system that was essentially a free lottery, it could avoid a lot of wasted time and pollution. You'd have to incentivize the occupant somehow though.

    something like this:

    1. Occupant is about to leave and sends an alert of near term availability.
    2. N subscribers get the alert and enter the lottery, lottery execu

    • by spitzak (4019)

      That's just silly. There right now is a much more efficient "lottery", which is "the one looking for a parking space that happens to be nearest the vactated space takes it". This obviously minimizes the driving and waste over any other scheme.

      Also pretty unclear what should happen in your scheme if the "winner" does not show up.

  • subject (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps (1157495)

    I've yet to see downtown parking in any city that wasn't already predatory and a scam. Usually, however, that's perpetrated by the city, not some app.

    The city intentionally zones and permits businesses to concentrate tax revenue within a small area.
    Buildings get taller, roads get narrower...
    Then the city complains about congestion, charges insane fees for parking, trys to charge to even bring a car downtown.
    I know! Bycycles will fix it! So they take away the parking lane and turn it into a bike lane... Now

  • That sounds like a great response from the police...

    And what exact public law is being broken now?

    • And what exact public law is being broken now?

      Well, for one thing, it's illegal to loiter. It's also illegal to intentionally disrupt the flow of traffic, stare at a cell-phone screen while driving, and block-then-sell access to public lands.

      So... take your pick. For me, it's the selling access to publicly owned property that's the key issue.

  • I wonder if someone could aggregate and sell realtime information about empty parking spaces.

    It's not as powerful (or sleazy) as holding parking spaces ransom, but it's probably a lot harder for SF to fight, due to First Amendment issues.

    • I wonder if someone could aggregate and sell realtime information about empty parking spaces.

      As long as they aren't actively encouraging people to break laws, like the app in question, I don't see where there would be a legal issue.

  • 1. Reserve all the conference rooms in the building for the next 10 years
    2. Build an app to auction conference rooms
    3. $$$ Profit!!!! $$$

  • You can't sell something you don't own. But what you could do is sell information, which you do own. In exchange for a set fee of $1, you can state the exact location you just vacated. No 'guarantee' of getting the spot, so you are not selling the spot. Instead you are selling the location data that is time sensitive. Specifically that means, if someone else comes along and takes the spot before your buyer arrives, the buyer is out of luck.
    • by PPH (736903)

      You can't sell something you don't own.

      Well, there goes my idea for this neat innovation I was going to call short stock sales.

  • by PPH (736903)

    But we will not abide businesses that hold hostage on-street public parking spots for their own private profit.

    So, they are going to make car carriers unload on dealer's lots?

    Too bad. I had a great business plan for a shipping company that needs no loading dock space because we were going to load and unload in the middle of city streets.

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