A New Way to Look at Minimum Parking Requirements

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For the past year, the Parking Reform Network (PRN)—a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about the impact of parking policy—has worked alongside Strong Towns to capture all the juicy details in the parking zoning codes of over 200 cities across North America. We’ve reimagined and crystallized the nuances within this unique dataset. PRN saw an opportunity to strengthen the map by conveying distinctions between the type of policy, identifying the land uses affected, and illustrating the geography it applies to. Knowledge IS power: By sharing what policies communities adopted, we’re empowering others to better understand good parking reform and achieve it in their own communities.

This is only the beginning for the Parking Reform Network! Since launching in 2020, we’re 200+ members strong across the globe. In October of 2021, PRN hosted a fundraiser in three major cities (New York, Chicago, and DC), raising $10,000 in one week. In addition to producing this map, we’ll be releasing a “parking reform playbook” to highlight best practices case studies on Parking Benefit Districts. Our purpose is to empower and share knowledge among our members and help professionals and advocates in any field with “parking problems.” PRN members enjoy access to a Slack chat with fellow parking reformers and urbanists, membership meetings featuring mobility change-makers throughout the country, and access to other members and news about reform across the country.

Key Takeaways

1. When it comes to parking codes, multifaceted is the norm and simplicity is the exception.

The simplest way to integrate parking reform in a zoning code is simple: “There are no provisions that establish a minimum number of off-street parking spaces for development for all land uses.” This is easy to implement, clear for readers to understand, and a tremendous advancement in making your city more livable. But more often, communities address a variety of use cases through writing many, many provisions.

For example, a zoning code commonly includes provisions to eliminate minimums in a central business district for all land uses, another provision to eliminate requirements for just commercial land uses along a specific corridor, another provision to be eligible to reduce residential requirements in another area, another provision to reduce a percentage of parking requirements if additional bicycle parking is included on site, another provision about maximums along pedestrian-oriented or transit-oriented land uses… You get the picture. While these provisions are an important step to accomplish parking reform, high levels of intricacy can create confusion for incoming developments, make it more technically challenging for staff to make adjustments, and limit growth. As the success of citywide parking reforms continue to increase, we hope the number of provisions will continue to decrease.

2. A very large number of cities have eliminated minimum requirements for a very small portion of their communities.

Of the 200 examined codes, approximately 20% have abolished or reduced parking mandates citywide. The remainder have eliminated parking requirements in specific areas such as a central business district, main street, or historic district. In fact, several codes limited parking reforms to two to four blocks within a downtown or commercial district, as seen below. Eliminating minimum parking requirements is progress no matter which way you cut it, but limiting it to such an insignificant area also limits the positive impacts of these policies.

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