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Cellphones Software The Almighty Buck Transportation

San Francisco Bans Parking Spot Auctioning App 404

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

    It's based on holding public space hostage.

  • 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 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @01:46PM (#47307779)

    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 Joe Gillian ( 3683399 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @01:51PM (#47307841)

    It still has some use, but they're just not doing it right. The City admitted that people can rent out their driveways or private garages as parking spaces, so I could easily see a revision of this app that works sort of like Uber but for parking spaces.

    People who have parking spaces to spare (apartment blocks, businesses, private homeowners) sell their driveways or parking lots as parking spaces. The people buying pay the property owner a given amount, and a percentage of that comes back to the company as a "finder's fee". You could even have businesses buy parking spaces in people's driveways nearby that are only valid for that business, ie;

    Business A has a parking lot that isn't big enough to meet customer capacity at peak hours. They're in a position that would make it very difficult to expand their parking ,but there are nearby homes that have large, unused driveways. Business A can rent some of those driveways and mark them as specifically for use for their customers, so that their customers now have a place to park during peak hours.

    I bet you could still make some pretty good money with it, since I'm sure apartment owners would love to get money for letting people use spaces that would otherwise go unused. The only real problem would be enforcement, but I'm sure there's some way around that.

  • Enforceable ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by markus_baertschi ( 259069 ) <markus&markus,org> 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.

  • 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 [], 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 Rob Y. ( 110975 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @02:11PM (#47308043)

    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 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).

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @02:35PM (#47308281)

    You are wrong. The car that would have taken the spot the instant it was available is now circling the block for half an hour instead of the person who used the app. And don't forget that using the app means a parked person stays in the spot longer than normal, which adds to the parking problem. It is bad in every possible way.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @02:56PM (#47308509)

    ...and preventing access to public property is illegal in San Francisco. You're agreeing with the person you're arguing with.

  • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @02:56PM (#47308519)

    Having said that, I grant that it could be used in ways that are likely illegal... like holding the spot for the person who won the auction. Then you might be said to be actually holding it hostage. But that would mean you -- not the winner of the auction -- were breaking the law. And it would be hard to prove.

    The only way information received from this application could possibly be useful was precisely if the auctioner held the spot for the winner. Because otherwise it would already be long taken by the time they got around, even if they were just a few city blocks away. Alternatively, San Francisco has an abundance of parking spaces, so what would be the point of this app?

    Does it ever make you uncomfortabe how posting this kind of reflexive, unthinking, ideology-based bullshit makes you exactly like the Stalinists of old, just with a different set of keyword triggers? Do you ignore the similarities because clearly, their ideology was wrong and yours is right? Or do you simply lack the self-awareness to notice?

  • Re:Communism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dunkindave ( 1801608 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @03:17PM (#47308727)

    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 the government "interference" is to protect the common good, such as by stopping the sale of humans (slave), prevent competition through unnatural monopolies, and the sale of access to public areas by private parties.

    What would you think if a group occupied the entire Waikiki beach area in Hawaii with large towels then told people they would auction off their spaces so others could use the beach? It isn't their beach, it is everyone's, and all they are doing is squatting and blocking other's access to the public land. Is this "free market", and even if it is, is it in the common good to allow it to continue?

    Some argue that this app is merely a way for people to give information about an available space (at a price) that aperson is about to leave, but as others have pointed out, it delays the person's departure thereby reducing effective parking availability. It also causes people to use phones while driving which in San Francisco is a crime, so it promotes a criminal act. It also is ripe for abuse by people deliberately seeking out parking spaces then selling them, which is a far cry from what the app developers claim the app was made for. To me, this all spells that this app goes against the common good and is therefore bad. It is also illegal based on current laws according to the City Attorney.

  • Re:Communism (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Copid ( 137416 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:24PM (#47311627)
    A few years ago, SF installed smart meters with sensors to do exactly this. Rates were set dynamically with the goal of keeping at least one space open on every block of public parking. It worked really well. There were piles of data generated during the trial run. It appears to have reduced cruising for spaces substantially (which was one of the key goals). They had a map of the most and least expensive places to park so people could adjust their plans accordingly. They're not using the sensors anymore (something about maintenance cost), but prices do change by the hour. If they just kept it up (and expanded it to cover all public parking), this problem would go away completely and the world would be a better place.


    Many people at the cities ages or industrial areas are low income workers, so a market rate parking can have a real financial dent. The public transportation response is a non starter until that are has good public transportation.

    There's a *ton* of options for public transportation in SF. People who drive in and try to park in the most congested areas are doing so by choice.

    I know a lot of low income worker who basically lost 2 hours worth of wages. A 1/4 of the day just to park. What happened is they ended up parking farther away, in a more sketchier area.

    That's a very strange result. On the one hand, they were easily getting parking before the meter rates were raised. Now, the meter rates are greater than or equal to 1/4 of a day's wages (otherwise they'd just park at the meter and pay the price). Why are the rates so high if the spaces weren't contested to begin with? Are the spaces now sitting empty?

    How do you determine market rate for after work hours parking?

    Very easily. You have an algorithm that steadily raises prices as the parking spaces fill up and lower them as spaces remain vacant with the goal of keeping N spaces empty per block of spaces. It works brilliantly (and, BTW, results in some parking meters charging only pennies per day if the place is not busy).

    Free parking means more people will shop and enjoy the entertainment, so putting a charge cost business money.

    That implies that free parking magically means more parking. If the spaces are full, the same number of people are there. They may be out a few extra bucks for parking, but making the parking free doesn't suddenly allow you to put 2 gallons of water into a 1 gallon bucket.

I've noticed several design suggestions in your code.