End the Parking Mandates and Subsidies That Are Hurting Our Cities


This member week, we are sharing insights into our new strategic plan, including our five priority campaigns. The goal of the End Parking Mandates and Subsidies campaign is to end the practices that cause productive land to be used for motor vehicle storage. You can support this campaign by becoming a member of Strong Towns.

Parking minimums—local laws that require private property owners to provide and maintain a certain number of off-street parking spaces—increase costs for home builders and entrepreneurs. They cost the public, too, in the form of extra infrastructure (roads, pipes, etc.) that must service all that parking, but without the taxable value to recoup public investment. Parking mandates and subsidies also create incentives for landowners to become land speculators, often with some of our community’s most valuable real estate. 

In addition to the actual costs, there are huge opportunity costs. By one estimate, the amount of space dedicated to parking in the U.S. is the equivalent of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Think of what we could be doing with all that land. Think, too, of all the would-be entrepreneurs and developers who never even get into the game because of the added financial burden of providing the number of parking spaces dictated by a zoning code. Maybe that’s what’s most insidious about parking mandates: they take away the flexibility and agency that homeowners, developers, business owners, and residents deserve.

Parking mandates and subsidies are so universally bad that getting rid of them is one of the few one-size-fits-all-communities recommendations we make at Strong Towns. What’s exciting is that, over the last few years, Strong Towns has been able to help dozens of communities make this common-sense change. 

When we started our annual #BlackFridayParking campaign in 2014, the thesis—that we are overbuilt on parking, even on the busiest shopping day of the year—was outside the mainstream; now it is becoming accepted wisdom. Last year, we collaborated with our friends at the Parking Reform Network to create a map of cities in North America who have reduced or eliminated parking minimums. San Diego, Atlanta, Raleigh, Bridgeport—new cities are being added to the map all the time.

We’re going to build on this momentum by making parking reform one of our priority campaigns. All this week, we have introduced the five campaigns that will receive special attention from us. These include campaigns to increase the transparency of local government accounting practices, end highway expansions, make our streets safer and more productive, and allow incremental development everywhere

To that list add: End Parking Mandates and Subsidies.

We seek an end to the mandates and subsidies that cause productive land to be used for motor vehicle storage.

The End Parking Mandates and Subsidies campaign will free up vast swaths of land that can now be used more productively. This one, reasonable change to our approach will unlock opportunities for more housing, more businesses, more outdoor seating, more parks and other public spaces, better public transportation systems, more pleasant places to walk and bike, and stronger and more financially resilient cities.

You can support the Strong Towns campaign to End Parking Mandates and Subsidies, as well as our other efforts to make cities stronger, by becoming a Strong Towns member today.

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