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Canton resident's Haystack parking app no longer operating

Canton resident's Haystack parking app no longer operating
Eric Meyer, 24, was tired of circling his Canton neighborhood looking for parking, so he brainstormed a parking app that lets local residents trade spots -- and quit his job to create it. (Kevin Rector, Baltimore Sun)

A controversial app that allowed residents in some of Baltimore's trendiest neighborhoods to charge one another for access to public parking spaces — with the app's creator taking a cut of each transaction — is no more.

Eric Meyer, the Canton resident who launched the Haystack app in Baltimore in May and later came up against governmental opposition to his model in other cities, has decided to revisit that model, he said.

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In an email Monday, Meyer said his team has gone back to the drawing board, in part because "going around the country and teaching city governments how to embrace new transportation technology isn't a sustainable business model."

The app, which Meyer said won a couple local innovation and tech awards after its release, is no longer available for download on smartphones.

When operating, it allowed a user leaving a parking space to alert users looking for spaces. A user who wanted the space could then pay the person leaving the space, with part of the fee being retained by Haystack.

The app faced an immediately backlash from some local residents, who accused Meyer of making a profit off something that should be a free asset: public parking. The app's model was also derided by some government bodies — including in Boston, where the City Council proposed an ordinance banning the practice.

In August, Meyer argued in testimony against the ordinance — which passed — that it "is not the place of City Hall to determine by doctrine which ideas should fail and which should succeed."

Here in Baltimore, leaders had seemed content to let the app fail or succeed as Meyer would have it — on its own. On Monday, Meyer praised Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and other city leaders for that approach.

"We were really moved by Baltimore's support of Haystack, especially when compared to less progressive city governments which took preemptive actions to immediately stop our service before it could start," Meyer said. "By taking a measured, wait-and-see approach with Haystack, our Mayor has set a strong precedent that Baltimore is a city open to new ideas and to new technologies."

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