Saturday, July 16, 2011

You can't not have minimum parking requirements

I've been against minimum parking requirements for a long time. These requirements, embedded in the zoning code, have a host of problems (PDF): they drive up the cost of housing, keeping down density and decreasing efficiency. They encourage people to drive, going against all our goals listed above.

For these reasons, some have proposed a cap on minimum parking requirements within walking distance of transit. Libertarians like Stephen Smith, and liberals like Matt Yglesias, would prefer to see parking completely deregulated citywide, if not nationwide. This may be the right way after all, and I'd be open to trying it, but I think it would be a tremendous political lift unless you could manage to build a grand coalition of libertarians and radical environmentalists strong enough to overcome the entrenched alliance between short-sighted conservatives and Subaru-wagon liberal NIMBYs.

In the meantime, here in New York at least, I would like to see the ability to change things at a lower level than the city. In a city where every Democratic candidate in the past three elections has pandered to the driving minority and the media is pervaded by the windshield perspective, it may be more feasible to get a single neighborhood like Sunnyside, Park Slope or Tremont to abolish its minimum parking requirements.

There's some precedent to this. Manhattan below 110th Street on the West side and 96th Street on the East Side have maximum parking limits, as does part of Long Island City. But that's it. Outside of these areas, as Angus found out here in Sunnyside and Woodside, there is no possible zone that comes without minimum parking requirements. The normal rezoning procedure does not include a way to remove parking requirements.

Short of rewriting the zoning code the only option is to have the City Council combine the neighborhood with Manhattan and the "Long Island City Subject Area." This can add to the difficulty: there may be people in the neighborhood who are indifferent to parking requirements, but afraid of "turning the neighborhood into Manhattan."


George K said...

You're right. The developer should be allowed to build as much or as little parking as they desire. If their goal is to build affordable housing, the developer should have the option of building no parking (or minimal parking) and passing the savings onto the people who live in the building. In the East NY case (I remember looking at it a while back), most of the parking spaces ended up being unused. A non-car owning person interested in living there would prefer more park space or a larger apartment (for the same price) as opposed to a parking lot that they won't use.

Zmapper said...

Apparently, the whole city of Fort Collins, CO (population about 140,000) doesn't have minimum parking requirements for commercial development. Doesn't really do much though. A new big box store went in a month ago with just as much parking as one would expect in another city. Perhaps the effect is greater near the university and in Old Town.

Residential areas still have minimum parking requirements. I think is a fair trade-off and addresses most of the fears about no parking.

Cap'n Transit said...

I don't think it's a fair trade-off, Zmapper. It seems pretty clear that it's residential parking minima that drive car ownership, and put businesses in a position of building parking to lure in drivers.

The fears about not being able to find parking can be easily solved by charging market rates for residential parking. If you charge enough, there will always be space available.

Zmapper said...

Fort Collins isn't really all that dense enough to make collecting parking fees worth it outside of certain areas.

You can still get around without a car somewhat. We have the highest bike commuting ratio among cities our size I think. So a bike is an option.

The problem is that the bus is terrible. Minimal service after 7pm and none at all on Sunday. Most routes are hourly or half hourly, and catering to just the business commuter with the poorly thought out Mason Corridor doesn't help things much.

Then what if you want to leave the city? You need a car for the most part. So people will still own cars, just because of the distances between towns and the lack of intercity transit.

Apartment builders tend to keep the parking hidden better than the Big Box stores. Parking is either on the street or behind the buildings with Apartments. Big box stores plop down the same design that they would build in Texas or Montana.