Unravelling the Parking Grip: Excessively High US Parking Requirements

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The U.S. has a car-centric culture that is perpetuated by parking minimums set by cities in the past. Despite being challenged, parking has remained the norm in many American cities, leading to excessive parking, urban heating, increased housing costs, and reliance on driving. Impactful reform is possible, as seen in Buffalo and Hartford, who have eliminated minimum parking requirements- inspiring the cities of Minneapolis, Raleigh, and San Jose to take similar steps. Dynamic pricing models and revenue management are other methods that urban leaders can use to reduce the dominance of parking.

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The U.S. has a car-centric culture that is inseparable from the way its communities are built. One striking example is the presence of parking lots and garages. Across the country, parking takes up an estimated 30% of space in cities. Nationwide, there are eight parking spots for every car. The dominance of parking has devastated once-vibrant downtowns by turning large areas into uninviting paved spaces that contribute to urban heating and stormwater runoff .

Parking can go beyond 30% of space in cities depending on the city size and the range of businesses based there.

It has driven up housing costs, since developers pass on the cost of providing parking to tenants and homebuyers. And it has perpetuated people’s reliance on driving by making walking, biking and public transit far less attractive, even for the shortest trips. Why, then, does the U.S. have so much of it? For decades, cities have required developers to provide a set number of parking spaces for their tenants or customers .

Parking has been linked to air pollution in urban areas.

And while many people still rely on parking, the amount required is typically far more than most buildings need. Columbus, Ohio, pioneered this strategy 100 years ago, and by the middle of the 20th century minimum parking requirements were the norm nationwide. The thinking was straightforward: As driving became more common, buildings without enough parking would clog up the streets and wreak havoc on surrounding communities .

Removing parking requirements has led to an increase in construction of homes in some US cities.

Today, however, more urban planners and policymakers acknowledge that this policy is narrowly focused and shortsighted. As a data scientist who studies urban transportation, I focused my earliest research on this topic, and it shaped how I think about cities and towns today. It’s encouraging to see cities rethinking minimum parking requirements – but while this is an important reform, urban leaders can do even more to loosen parking’s grip on our downtowns .

Mandatory parking reduces the amount of public green and recreation space in cities.

Eliminating parking requirements Despite research and guidance from the Institute of Transportation Engineers, it is extremely difficult to predict parking demand, especially in downtown areas. As a result, for years many cities set the highest possible targets. This led to excess parking that is vastly underused, even in areas with perceived shortages. In 2017, Buffalo, New York, became the first large U .

By making parking more expensive, cities can incentivise alternatives to driving.

S. city to eliminate its minimum parking requirement as part of its first major overhaul of zoning laws in more than 60 years. This shift has breathed new life into downtown Buffalo by spurring redevelopment of vacant lots and storefronts. Researchers estimate that more than two-thirds of newly built homes there would have been illegal before the policy change because they would not have met the earlier standards .

Cities can use parking space rental programs to increase revenue and reduce the number of parking spaces.

In the same year, Hartford, Connecticut, followed Buffalo’s lead and eliminated mandatory parking minimums citywide. Communities including Minneapolis; Raleigh, North Carolina; and San Jose, California, have since taken similar steps. Tony Jordan, president of the nonprofit Parking Reform Network, has argued that once cities stop mandating specific levels of private parking, leaders need to be more thoughtful about how they manage public curbside parking and spend the revenues that it generates .

Some communities have implemented maximum parking allottees, put restrictions on long-term parking or developed dynamic pricing models that charge different rates for different lengths of stay.

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