A new mobile application has emerged on the market that helps drivers find parking spaces. The app, called Rover, was created by a Toronto developer to help people find unused parking spots on private property. However, the app raised questions about legality in Toronto. Now it’s coming to Edmonton, and raising concerns here as well.
Rover works in the app-based ‘sharing economy’. As a driver, you have to download the app and provide your credit card information. After that, you can access maps showing Rover parking spot locations. As a person looking to rent your parking space, you have to list it on the app. The maximum parking fee you can charge is $2 an hour, and the company has a 30% share in each transaction.
Anyone can download the app, which is currently in its limited form. If it gains favour with Edmontonians, the app will allow people to pay directly through the phone.
The issue with the Rover app is that it violates city parking bylaws in Edmonton, just as it does in Toronto. Bylaws in Edmonton prohibit property owners and tenants from renting their driveways. Thus, the app is basically enabling Edmontonians to break the law. There are bound to be legal consequences for the app owners as well as app users.
Edmonton Traffic Bylaw 5590
Under the Municipal Government Act, cities are permitted to draw up and enforce bylaws in order to protect the health and safety of the community. Further, according to section 14 of the Alberta Traffic Safety Act, Edmonton can create bylaws for traffic and parking.
Renting out private parking spots amounts to running a commercial parking lot. Traffic Bylaw 5590 does not allow the renting of private driveways and parking spaces. This is causing a conflict between the app and the law.
While people appreciate the kind of service Rover aims to provide, some are not happy with its rule-breaking. Ward 2 Councillor Bev Esslinger says that the app is trying to circumvent the system, which does not seem like a good business idea.
Bylaws are made to protect the public. If they are violated, the result will be nuisance and potential danger. Like many other people, Esslinger is of the opinion that the app makers should try to work within Edmonton’s bylaws or apply to change them, but that will require public consultation.
Rover’s co-founder Tim Wootten says the app makes it possible to solve a long-standing problem in the city – that of parking. Many parking spots are off-limits because they are on private property, even though they are not being used. According to Wootten, there is no harm in trying to free them up for use.
At the same time, the makers of the app understand the legal issues surrounding it. Wootten plans to meet the Mayor of Toronto, John Tory, to come up with a solution, and he’s trying to do the same in Edmonton. He cites these kinds of legal issues as the reason they haven’t launched everywhere yet.
What do you think of the app? Should the city bend the rules to accommodate a much-needed service, or should Rover find a way to work within the system?