banner james carlini - Carlini's CornerBy James Carlini

This article is an excerpt from James Carlini’s upcoming book, Location Location Connectivity:

Smartphones are becoming a ubiquitous tool to solve everyday problems from where to buy gas to where to look for a parking space in urban areas. You would think that applications (apps) like this would be a positive impact on society. You would think local governments, which on a whole, are not that efficient or effective, would welcome something to alleviate real economic development and infrastructure shortcomings, like parking.

As Smartphone technology becomes more dominant in various parts of our lives, some municipal governments, which cannot accept or understand change want to fight innovation in order to keep traditional bottlenecks and problems alive and well. Why?

In San Francisco, they are currently embattled with a parking app that provides insight to where there are available parking spaces for those coming into the city. This application cuts into the wasted energy costs of automobiles, not to mention the real problem of a shortage of parking in San Francisco that has not ever been protectively addressed.  Looking for a parking spot on average costs twenty minutes of time and 30% of the traffic congestion are these cars looking to park.

(UPDATEDSee article link for the initial problem and both sides’ contention

Also see article on current shutdown

You would think with all the ecology-focused people in San Francisco, this type of app would be heralded as a way to cut pollution, cut wasted energy costs, and make the city more people-friendly by addressing a real infrastructure problem: not enough parking.


Why is there such a negative reaction? Is it because the city did not come up with this idea? A lot of classic negative reactions come to mind:

  1. It wasn’t invented here. Therefore, it is not any good.
  2. We will not condone this. We aren’t making any money off of it.
  3. This may be innovative, but we need to stop it because it might make things more efficient. We don’t need efficiencies, we need more bureaucratic overhead to justify our jobs.
  4. We don’t understand this, so this is bad. Even if it helps with a real problem that we have neglected for years to address, we refuse to let it be used to alleviate the issues.

When you look at the arguments and you look at the problems which have never been addressed, you realize how lame the politicians are to stifle this positive innovation.

NEWSFLASH: In the 21st century, cities need to focus on getting problems solved.

The solution is not costing any money to San Francisco. Why should they be opposed to a third party with an innovative parking app which shows people where they can find a parking space?  (Potentially, this app would cut traffic congestion depending on how many people use it. 10%?  20%)

Is it because someone else might be making money on their years of neglect of the problem? That would be a good counter suit to their “cease and desist” lawsuit against the app. The counter suit should read “after all the years of not doing anything, here is a lawsuit on infrastructure negligence.”

Infrastructure negligence? Wow, that sounds like a winner for a new segment of lawsuits. Infrastructure negligence. Should that be remedied by fines or jail time by those who committed the negligence?

UPDATE: Here are the areas of issues for the city to be held liable on:

Being a known problem for years that the city neglected to take action on, what penalties should be levied on the city and its officials for their breach of fiduciary responsibilities to the citizens of San Francisco as well as the region?  Areas that were known and neglected include, but are not limited to:

  • Traffic congestion – 3 out of 10 cars are adding to traffic tie-ups because they cannot find a parking space
  • Energy costs wasted – besides these 30% of cars wasting an average of 20 minutes worth of fuel, the other 70% have to accommodate them in traffic further wasting energy as well as everyone time.
  • Productivity – How much time across both parkers and drivers in traffic are being lost due to insufficient parking management by the city?
  • Pollution – How much more polluted is the air due to this extra traffic and parking congestion?
  • Overall Regional Economic Development – In a time where most of the economy is stagnant, thwarting technology which can alleviate a known and quantifiable complex problem affecting several majors concerns from energy costs, workforce productivity, pollution, and the overall stress of local drivers is a major crime.

The city attorney threatened to file suit for penalties of $2500 per transaction and $300 per violation.  Maybe a lawyer for representing the people should file a lawsuit against the city for total lack of addressing a quantifiable problem that they neglected for so many years.  It has become a major hindrance to the economic well-being of every person living in that region as well as a pollution issue and yet, no action was taken.  I call that infrastructure negligence, a major crime.

No one is putting up a sawhorse or chair trying to reserve a parking space, they are not “renting”  the space to someone else.  The apps focus on sharing information on where an available spot is.

Is selling of information is illegal?  Then maybe all the states which sell their drivers license data base to insurance companies and other interested parties should be brought to court as well.  (but that’s another story)

All of this relates to the Platform for Commerce. If a municipality or region fails to build a solid platform for commerce (infrastructure), it has failed to maximize the economic development for the region. Shouldn’t someone be held responsible for their negligence?

CARLINI-ISM : “Any government agency impeding the innovation and solution to infrastructure problems (which are impacting regional economic development) should be held liable for infrastructure negligence.”

Location location location james CarliniCarlini’s visionary book, “Location, Location, Connectivity” will be coming out later this year.

He will be speaking at several upcoming conferences across the country later this year. Details are forthcoming.

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Copyright 2014 – James Carlini – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


  1. James, I love when you publish articles like this because you have a way of expressing ‘righteous rage’ without the vitriol; a talent for which I envy you.

    My own experience tends toward option ‘3’; and more specifically, certain groups within (in this case) the San Francisco government.

    The app in question threatens the ‘low hanging fruit’ for the men and women in blue uniforms; the ones with power to issue ‘parking violations’, among other things.

    In contrast with option ‘4’, the City likely understands the app very well; and just as likely may construe it as a threat to an easy source of revenue they’ve enjoyed for years.

    Exploiting a clear lack of parking space for monetary gain is sort of like deliberately closing a traffic lane on the approach to the GW Bridge during rush-hour traffic in New Jersey to create worse congestion for political gain.

    Of course, that never happens…right?

    As thanks, I offer an option ‘5’ which is really an expansion of (your) option ‘1’.

    Senior city officials paying their own engineering staff considerable salaries to develop such an application are embarrassed because it was developed by a private sector entity – unaffiliated with the City.

    Perhaps they had something like it in the works, and are ‘late to market’.

    Perhaps they paid a high-priced consultant a lot of money to develop a product; someone who unscrupulously ‘milked’ the City and stretched out a few weeks of coding into months and years of ‘studying the problem’.

    As someone who’s worked as a consultant for the government on a number of different projects, I can attest to this.

    Chances are, SF government had already contracted with someone to produce something that is the functional equivalent of the app in question; and got beaten to market by some kid with an old XP computer and a copy of ‘Python’.

    In either case, what we know about the difference between the private and public sectors has clearly played out in this instance.

    Innovation comes from people who are unafraid to experiment…innovate…try something new.

    And when such are lacking work – for lack of friends in high places, like governments – some of the more enlightened will actually produce something that’s useful.

    Historically, such innovation almost never comes from government workers with a ‘safe’ job they can keep for a lifetime; all they have to do is keep their heads down and their mouths shut for 20+ years to retire with a pension.

    Why would they risk it by having an idea?

    Just my 2-cents worth, James.

    • James Carlini

      Steve – some excellent points. Thank you for (5) – that could be another reason. We need to get all these municipalities out of the horse-and-buggy days of fines. As for infrastructure, they know they have a problem, yet no one is trying to fix it and of course, there is no money. You would think an app like this would help people park and spend money at their destinations – restaurants, stores, etc. Too many short-sighted politicians.

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