Rover shared-parking app makes better use of private parking

Your editorial (“Bringing Rover to Heel,” July 28th reproduced below) on this new app that facilitates home-owners to rent out their parking spaces when they don’t need them suggests a compromise.  It should cause a deeper reevaluation by the city.

Very little parking is zoned as such, and only this parking can be rented; otherwise parking spots are deemed “ancillary” to the main land-use, usually residential, commercial, or industrial, and it can be occupied only by the vehicles used to transport the driver to do business — as customer, seller, or employee — at that address.  Downtown such parking spaces are a market commodity and usually charged for, while those further out are usually free.

In lower-density residential areas, the parking supply is fractured, usually with each parking spot requiring its own “curb cut” for access.  Unfortunately, this curb cut does two deliterious things:  a) it requires the sidewalk geometry to be compromised such that the level surface that makes walking pleasant is sacrificed to avoid the property-owner needing to slow down to almost a standstill to avoid a big bump.  This feature causes pedestrians to shift their hips to allow one foot to be higher than the other, and it causes strollers to want to roll into the street without strong-arming by the adult pusher.  It is also unfair, as the sidewalks are publicly provided and movement along them is much greater than that using the curb-cut to gain egress to the private driveway.

The second effect is b) the street loses one or, more often, two, street parking spots.  This not only reduces the number of parking spaces on the street, but the off-street spaces that replace them are all private — thus unshared.  Even though the average car is driven only 1.5 to 2 hours a day, they are parked during the day more often at other parking spaces, such as an employer’s lot.

What Rover does can actually help the residents on a street, by providing an opportunity for a visitor to park in a private spot, thus reducing the use of on-street spaces.  The former would be used by someone parking longer than street parking allows, and the latter by those parking for shorter periods.

A couple years ago, a seniors centre and long-term-care home in Ottawa lost parking for employees, volunteers, and visitors to the residents when chronically underused Lansdowne Park, across the street, was redeveloped and greatly intensified, at least the adjacent portion.  I proposed the center approach owners in the residential area to set up a Rover-like program, with the centre allotting the spaces and enforcing adherence, so visitors’ vehicles would not be blocking owners when they got home from their jobs.  But the idea had to be rejected when it was realized that most parking was in garages off a rear lane and, without a private driveway in front, would be too fraught with security issues.  But at least this parking arrangement, which dates back over 75-100 years, has provide many more shared street parking spaces than the suburbs do today, where car-ownership is even higher.

Another place where it could work is at hospitals which charge very high rates for the parking they provide, primarily justified by their need for funding to cover gaps in provincial financial support.  But seniors, who are the most frequent users of such parking — as patients, visitors of patients, and clinic clients — are also more likely to need a car to overcome accessibility limitations and have difficulty paying the rates that exceed what the municipality charges in its downtown.  Rover would help them.

Chris Bradshaw

Active senior, Ottawa

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28 Jul 2015, Toronto Star [editorial]

Bringing Rover to heel

Consider it the next logical step in the app-based “sharing economy.” Uber, the popular California-based ride-sharing service, came to Toronto in 2012, to the dismay of the taxi industry. Now Rover is here — doing for parking spots what Uber did for car rides.

Both offer a mobile app-based approach to putting buyers of a service in touch with sellers, and both are in conflict with longstanding city regulations. In both cases, the solution is to draft fresh standards, protecting the public from possible excesses while answering consumer desire for participation in the new economy.

Rover operates by connecting drivers to people with available parking space. Often, it’s an unused driveway. Participating motorists download an app, provide credit card information and are sent a map showing the location of Rover parking spots. The company takes 30 per cent from each transaction, with the parking fee capped at $2 an hour.

Here’s the problem: r,enting out private parking in Toronto constitutes running a commercial parking lot. And there are hefty fines for doing so without meeting regulatory requirements and obtaining necessary approvals.

These rules serve a purpose. It’s in a neighbourhood’s interest to block residents from turning their property into permanent, busy parking lots. That should still be banned. But there should also be a place for Rover.

The law governing this area was written before the existence of app-based sharing services, and it should be better synchronized with what’s happening in the marketplace.

As Toronto Mayor John Tory put it, this app-based technology is “here to stay, it’s not going anywhere and we’d better find a way to make sure regulations catch up with it.”

A possible way to do that might be to cap the number of parked cars a property owner is allowed to accept. If this cap was set relatively low, say one or two vehicles a day, it would go a long way to alleviate concern that Rover would result in something akin to a bustling parking lot.

It should be possible to reach some middle ground. Indeed, given the tenor of the times, maybe someone will find an app for that.



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