Parking standards, including parking maximums and minimums, refer to policy decisions regarding the amount of parking that is required for new developments during land use planning.1 Many cities have parking requirements within zoning codes that establish a minimum number of off-street parking spaces to meet the specific development’s demands.2 The purpose is to ensure that there is enough off-street parking available for each development, without vehicles being forced to park in other lots and creating more traffic.
As more people have become dependent on cars, the demand for curbside or on-street parking has increased, and the solution has been to implement zoning requirements for off-street parking.3 Unfortunately, this can limit the space that is available for pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure, public transit, and green space. Parking minimums can also lead to increased local vehicle emissions and traffic noise from discouraging alternative forms of transportation and leading to urban sprawl, a form of rapid low-density development.4 Reducing minimum parking requirements and, instead, establishing parking maximums and removing off-street parking requirements can promote compact development, prevent underutilized parking lots, and can allow the land to be used for other purposes.5
How it Helps
Parking maximums can also reduce the costs of development projects if construction companies are not required to build additional infrastructure in the form of large parking lots. This can leave more land to be converted to green space which can promote physical activity and connectivity of nearby residents.
Altering parking requirements, such as eliminating parking minimums, will require policy changes at the city level. It may be difficult to persuade policymakers and community members to alter the zoning laws regarding parking availability within the city. Efforts to persuade policymakers and other stakeholders of the health, environmental, and financial benefits of establishing parking maximums will need to be in place. Additionally, since parking availability for residential developments can increase housing value and rent prices, developers and property owners may be less enthusiastic about its removal.
Parking requirements can be set based on the type of development, such as the number of bedrooms or offices, and its location.2 Policymakers can also set parking standards based on the population who is most likely to live in or utilize the building. For example, older adults and low-income individuals may have a lower parking demand and can benefit more from public transit infrastructure and green space.
1) San Francisco, California Parking Minimum
In 2018, San Francisco followed other U.S. cities (including Minneapolis, Minnesota and Buffalo, New York) by eliminating its parking minimum requirement. Although developers will still be allowed to build parking spaces, they are no longer required by the city to meet a certain minimum. This decision can reduce vehicle dependency and lower construction costs.
2) Austin, Texas Parking Minimum
Although Austin’s zoning code still requires a minimum amount of parking for new developments, there has been a push for the city to eliminate all parking minimums, with the idea first introduced in 2019 by the city’s Pedestrian Advisory Council. This does not mean that all new developments would not include parking spaces, but it would allow for high-density land use while addressing the city’s housing crisis.
3) Paris, France On-Street Parking
Paris has made plans to remove thousands of on-street parking spaces to make room for green space and improve the city’s resilience. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, Paris—as well as many other cities—have realized the public health and environmental benefits of having fewer cars on the road, and removing parking spaces is a key way to introduce more sustainable transportation options.