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Rover Parking: Will it launch in Ottawa?

By Caroline Rodriguez-Charette

Rover Parking, an app that helps users find and share empty parking spots — the AirBnB of parking — wants to launch in Ottawa. But they may not be able to offer their business here, in the face of the City of Ottawa’s current by-laws.

Founders Grant Brigden and Tim Wootton said they anticipate launching Rover Parking within the next month and a half at the latest. Their plan is to focus on areas in Ottawa that are near universities, hospitals and event stadiums. In order for that to happen, they will need a critical supply of parking spaces — and to convince the City of Ottawa.

The City of Ottawa’s current stance on Rover Parking may prevent them from launching. With the exception of commercials lots, the rental of parking spaces is prohibited in Ottawa.

“Renting parking spaces is considered a non-accessory [or supplemental] use and is forbidden under the Zoning By-law 2008-250,” said Roger Chapman, the Manager of By-law and Regulatory Services for the City of Ottawa.

Rover Parking started in Toronto in July 2015, and since then, Brigden and Wootton have been working with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). They have also been in contact with the municipal government parking lots because some are being shut down for condo developments and more supply is required.

“Cities and communities are running out of room, there’s no more ledge, you can’t just create more land obviously, so the common sense approach is to look to other areas where there’s parking availability and start to utilize that parking for the general public,” said Brigden.

Rover Parking allows a home-owner to rent out their driveway for a few hours while they are away at work, for example — essentially creating new temporary parking spaces where there were none before.

The City of Toronto is working proactively with Rover because they realize that, in spite of current by-laws, it provides a viable solution to their shortage of parking spaces.

Some parking providers in Ottawa believe they could benefit from Rover Parking, or do not feel like it would affect their parking businesses.

“We are currently sold out of parking and we have a large wait list, so an app like [Rover Parking] would definitely help our students,” said Brian Langer, Operations Supervisor of Parking, Lockers, Coin-Ops and Card Services at Algonquin College.

Christopher Moy, assistant director of the Department of University Safety at Carleton University said he does not see Rover Parking causing a major impact. Carleton’s relative isolation means that Rover users would still have to travel some distance from a Rover space to get to their destination. “Most people park at Carleton [itself] due to its proximity to their classes and offices, and because for them it is preferable to commuting,” said Moy.

In order to use Rover Parking, property owners are required to comply with all applicable laws. These include tax requirements, rules and regulations that may apply to parking spaces, zoning, rentals and property licenses – and again, the regulatory regime does not permit for Rover’s business model to operate in Ottawa.

However, Brigden and Wootton are taking a chance on Ottawa. They believe in  letting the people of each city decide for themselves if they want to use Rover Parking.

“The by-laws that are in place do not usually address new technologies such as Rover, so we are not waiting for these by-laws to be updated, but rather showing how new technology like this makes sense for a smarter, more efficient and less congested city,” said Brigden.

Only time will tell if Rover Parking will work or impact parking in Ottawa, said Langer.

This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol. 10, No. 3 (Nov/Dec 2017).

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