If you’re wondering why so many San Franciscans claim the tech industry has turned the city into a playground for the wealthy, this new parking app does a pretty good job of summing things up.
MonkeyParking, which started in Rome and recently made its U.S. debut in San Francisco, lets drivers auction off their curbside parking spots to the highest bidder and earn as much as $150 a month, according to the app makers.
“Publish your parking spot on MonkeyParking every time that you park your car and get notified about drivers willing to pay for the spot,” the company explains on its AngelList investor page. “Accept the price and leave your spot to the driver within 10 minutes. It's a smart way to make some extra $ when you're about to leave your spot anyway.”
Parking spots in San Francisco are notoriously difficult to find, and MonkeyParking thinks it's created a convenient solution.
But it may only end up being convenient for well-to-do smartphone owners with enough superfluous income to buy parking spots. The app has already aroused the ire of residents upset seeing a tech startup trying to commoditize public space.
I wonder if @MonkeyParking's next product will be to let people sell their seats on #SFMuni.
— EC (@EC) May 4, 2014
MonkeyParking CEO and co-founder Paolo Dobrowolny told The Huffington Post that he anticipated some backlash but believes the app has great potential to reduce traffic.
“People leave from parking spots every day, we just want to make that moment a valuable moment for them,” he told HuffPost in an email. “We are just providing a way to sync drivers looking for parking and people who are about to leave a parking spot. We are not dealing with the parking space itself which belongs to the city and will be regularly [paid] through the metered parking.”
Ultimately, he said, MonkeyParking could function more as a trade system.
“They can use the earned money to refund their metered parking expenses or maybe to get a parking spot with MonkeyParking the next time that they need it,” he said. “We aim at creating a MonkeyParking community in which the same drivers use the app to find a parking spot and then to make some money when leaving.”
But like other unregulated markets online, the system may be ripe for abuse. There are fears that opportunists will squat in parking spots just to sell them before driving down the street to do it again.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency is looking into concerns about the app, and the city attorney’s office is investigating the legality of the business.
“So far, all we’ve determined for sure is that it’s extremely weird,” Gabriel Zitrin, a spokesperson for the office, told the newspaper.
Dobrowolny said the app has already met some success in San Francisco.
“We are still collecting and analyzing the numbers but we can already say that it is performing way better than in Rome,” he told HuffPost. “We are pretty brand new here, but we are quickly getting a high engagement from people downloading the app.”