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Philadelphia Preparing to Ban Parking Apps That Use Bids to Park

A proposed law would make it illegal for anyone to charge a fee to rent or sell a public parking spot to another person within the city.

parking app

Parking apps that let mobile users place monetary "bids" on soon-to-be-empty parking spaces on city streets could soon be banned in Philadelphia due to concerns about fairness, potential arguments between drivers fighting over spaces and other concerns.

The proposed law, which was introduced to Philadelphia's City Council by Councilman William K. Greenlee, would make it illegal for anyone to charge a fee to rent or sell a public parking spot to another person within the city, Greenlee told eWEEK in a telephone interview on Nov. 13. Under the proposed law, violators would be subject to fines of $250 for each such incident, he said.

"These are supposed to be free parking spots open to first-come, first-served customers," he said.

Instead, mobile apps such as MonkeyParking and Haystack are trying to make money from on-street parking users, and it's not right, said Greenlee.

MonkeyParking advertises itself on its Website as an "on-street parking on demand" app that allows users to "make some $ by leaving on-street spots." Haystack offers similar services that match people who are leaving a spot with other drivers who are seeking a spot.

Greenlee's proposed law passed through a City Council committee last week, had a first reading before the group today and is expected to head to a vote before the full 17-member Council on Nov. 20, he said.

"There's no reason to think it's not going to pass," he said. "It flew out of committee. I haven't heard anybody raise any concerns about it."

Other cities are starting to have the same issues with such apps and are considering bans or have banned them, said Greenlee.

Santa Monica, Calif., already has a ban in place, while Los Angeles is now considering a ban, according to a Nov. 12 report by CBS Channel 2 in Los Angeles.

"City leaders said last month the practice of selling parking spaces amounts to extortion and instructed city attorneys to write an ordinance that would prohibit such phone-based services," the story reported. The MonkeyParking app had been previously offered in San Francisco but "was disabled after government officials there sent out a cease-and-desist letter, citing an existing law prohibiting the practice," the story stated. Beverly Hills and West Hollywood also are considering similar bans.

Greenlee said Philadelphia officials investigated the use of such apps in other cities once they learned it was being used in the City of Brotherly Love.

"It's timely that we try to stop it before it gets too many legs," he said.

More importantly, concerns about the potential for violence between people who are trying to "sell" a parking spot and others who aren't allowed to take a spot without paying for it are worrisome, said Greenlee.

"In Philadelphia, like other places, people take parking very seriously" because it can be hard to find spaces to park vehicles, he said. "If people start reserving spots and putting them up to the highest bidders, it could get nasty."

Such apps are also unfair because they essentially allow people to run small businesses that don't pay any taxes, he said.