Thursday, July 21, 2016

The trouble with minimum parking requirements

When someone builds or significantly renovates housing, offices, or retail and commercial buildings, they are usually subject to minimum on-site parking requirements throughout municipalities in Canada.

Building parking spots is expensive, and building structured or underground parking is even more expensive. Minimum parking requirements add to the cost of business and make housing less affordable.

A surface parking space costs around $5,000-$10,000 to build. Structure parking costs around $15,000 to $25,000 and up per space to build. This does not included ongoing maintenance costs.

Minimum parking requirements significantly impact urban forum, and can take away from creating walkable, livable communities. The Langley Bypass is the perfect example of this.

So why were minimum on-site parking requirements put into zoning bylaws in the first place? To deal with people parking on the street, using all available curb spaces. The idea was that if you required enough on-site, off-street parking, people wouldn’t park on the street.

Unfortunately, people will park on the street (if it is free) no matter how much on-site parking is provided. There are some good examples of this in Langley City’s Downtown Core and in Willoughby.

Getting minimum parking requirements correct is near next to impossible. For example, a Starbucks and cheque cashing business were built on a former section of parking lot at Valley Centre Mall in Downtown Langley. Because of minimum parking requirements, they were required to build an additional parking lot adjacent to the mall. As you can see, this parking lot isn’t used.

A Starbucks and cheque cashing business were added to a former section of parking lot in Valley Centre Mall on Fraser Highway.

An empty surface parking lot built to meet Langley City minimum parking requirements is located behind the mall on Industrial Avenue.

Are their better ways to manage parking? There certainly are! The paper Smart Growth Alternatives to Minimum Parking Requirements by Christopher V. Forinash, Adam Millard-Ball, Charlotte Dougherty and Jeffrey Tumlin provides some great alternatives.

It is critically important that on-street parking is properly managed. In commercial areas, this generally means pricing parking to ensure there is always a few spaces available. In residential areas where there is an over-subscription to on-street parking, permitting generally should be considered.


Corey said...

Municipalities are crazy to be in the parking business, especially when they supply an economic good on public land for free in many cases. Municipalities should move towards a private parking market, utilizing the market price of land to determine parking rates. Our streets would be so much better for it. Municipalities need to stop distorting the market price of parking through their policies.

See the Japan approach. Better streets with properly priced parking.

Unknown said...

I wasn't even aware that the Starbucks and cheque cashing business were required to build a new parking lot nearby. That seems a bit wasteful, especially in a city that is geographically constrained. Additionally, it would seem to be like shooting yourself in the foot if you are trying to create a walkable city; the extra space required between businesses is an impediment to pedestrians further pushing them away from that mode of transportation and into their cars if they have one.