As the sharing economy evolves, each new ‘app’ for another ‘niche’ seems more obvious than the last: first Airbnb for accommodation sharing, then Uber for ride sharing, and now ‘Rover’ for parking space sharing.
Developed by two Toronto entrepreneurs, Rover focuses on connecting drivers with owners of private parking spaces, “…as the Airbnb of parking. Giving you access to privately shared spaces at great rates. Exposing sharing and friendliness all across the country.”
But the critics are already vocal. Toronto’s bylaw office has simply said, “It’s not legal,” the alleged illegality arising from the unlicensed operation of a commercial lot. Tim Wootton, a Rover co-developer has responded that the bylaws in issue were developed long before the Internet even existed, never in contemplation of the sharing economy, but “to prevent drivers from parking on lawns, not on stopping a homeowner from making a little extra money renting a driveway spot for a few hours.”
Concerns have also been raised about the potential nuisance for residential neighborhoods and revenue loss for municipalities. A typical comment: “Increased traffic in residential zones? Increased noise…? Increased litter …? Increased pedestrian injuries/fatalities? No thanks…. Lower city revenues mean everybody will have to pay more taxes….”
Enthusiastic support, however, has come from Albert Koehl, an environmental lawyer, and author of the 400-page online book, “Road Follies, understanding, challenging, and reforming Ontario’s failed road transport model”. Mr. Koehl likes Rover because it “unlocks huge amounts of underutilized or unused space in urban areas …[ enabling] the city to liberate an equivalent amount of parking on public road space for other community priorities, such as wider sidewalks, safe cycling conditions or green spaces.”
The amount of land consumed by parking is a particular bugbear for Mr. Koehl who, having dug out the statistics for Road Follies, is well informed on the subject. His book cites the following statistics:
• If all people in the world owned cars at the rate of Americans (771 cars per 1,000 people) …the required parking space …would be the size of Greece or England.” (This from Donald Shoup’s High Cost of Free Parking)
• The average car is parked 95% of the time compared to mass transit vehicles “in motion and serving a transport function for much of the day.”
• In Toronto, the average curbside or ‘on-street’ parking space is 12.1 sm/130 sf and the average off-street space is 32.5 sm/300 to 350 sf, the difference arising from parking lots needing access aisles and landscaping.
• “Surprisingly, given the amount of space needed for parking, there is no accurate inventory of parking spaces in the USA or Canada—nor an estimate of the total land area taken up by such parking. However, extrapolating from the most careful recent estimates: the total number of parking spaces in the US is about 1.15 billion.
• Assuming 4.5 parking spaces per car in Ontario means each car consumes 1,085 sf, which is more than the living space devoted to the average human.
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