Minimum Parking Requirements - Part 2

Day 4,847, 16:30 Published in Canada Canada by Mann551

In addressing the above problems, new problems naturally arise. The first issue that comes about is an issue of land use and how that affects other aspects of urban form. For every square metre of a development that is devoted to meeting parking requirements, that space is being taken from the building itself. This can result in weird developments where a plot of land with a restaurant and corresponding parking lot is oddly divided, with 25% of the land used for the restaurant while the rest of the land is devoted to parking for that restaurant. (D. Shoup 2011) This becomes a problem for affordable housing as well. Since most requirements for residential are based on the number of dwelling units, when developers attempt to build affordable housing, which tend to have more units in the same plot of land, it becomes difficult to create these units because each unit created also requires parking. (McDonnell, Madar and Been, Minimum parking requirements and housing affordability in New York City 2011) It is even worse in that typically lower income people who live in affordable housing tend to own a vehicle less than those who are not living in affordable housing.

In addition to this, minimum parking requirements can increase the costs of a development to such a point that it becomes unfeasible to begin in the first place. Each parking space costs money to create, while also taking away land that could be used for more profitable uses. It is estimated that a surface parking space costs $44 per square foot in capital costs. (Franco, Cutter and Lewis, Scholarship @ Claremont 2020) When parking lots become large, this becomes a cost of development that is difficult to ignore, especially in places where land prices are steep, such as in the downtown cores of cities. Off-street parking lots also add to the dedensification of cities, as parking lots create more space between buildings, making it more difficult to walk from place to place. (D. Shoup, The High Cost of Free Parking 2011)

This dedensification also creates issues with the argument that more parking reduces traffic congestion. Because buildings are spaced further apart from each other, people are more inclined to get into their vehicles and drive from location to location rather than parking once and completing all of their intended errands with a single park job. (D. Shoup, The High Cost of Free Parking 2011) In addition to having each vehicle driving more often to get the same errands completed, parking lots add to the expectation of free parking, reducing the real cost of choosing driving at the transportation method of choice. Through this reduced cost of driving, more people choose to drive and consequently own vehicles, which actually increases traffic congestion as people decide to drive over walk, bike or take transit to their destinations. (D. Shoup, The High Cost of Free Parking 2011) Parking is bundled in with the cost of everything else that is consumed, which means that those who do not drive are being forced to help subsidize the free parking for those who do drive. This is true at stores, offices and even residential buildings, where the price of a parking spot is automatically included in the monthly rent or cost of housing. (Jung 2011) Unbundling parking would allow for prices to drop and for drivers to see the true cost of parking. (Marsden 2014)

Adding onto the simple model outlined above, the amount of vehicles in the entire cycle is inversely related to the cost of vehicle ownership and indirectly related to the ease with which one can enter and exit traffic. Therefore, since the cost of vehicle ownership is slightly subsidized due to free parking, vehicle ownership increases. Additionally, through the expectation of ample free parking, the ease with which one can find a parking spot also increases, which indirectly increases vehicle ownership as well. Because of the increase in vehicle ownership, the amount of traffic increases. Additionally, assuming the amount of parking doesn’t change, the time it takes to find parking will increase as more vehicles take up parking spaces. The longer it takes for vehicles in traffic to find parking spaces, the more vehicles are considered to be in traffic as they cruise around looking for parking. This causes traffic congestion when the supply of parking is less than the demand for parking.

Minimum parking requirements address the supply side of this problem by making provision for greater amounts of free parking. But the greater the amount of parking, the easier it is to find parking and leave traffic, which induces more vehicle ownership over time. Therefore, minimum parking requirements become a sort of self-propelling cycle, where the ease of finding parking increases vehicle ownership, which leads to increasing difficulty in finding parking. This in turn encourages city planners to increase minimum parking requirements, making it easier to find parking as supply increases, and the cycle continues. What Shoup recommends is to remove the minimum parking requirement and allow developers to create the amount of parking the market demands at the price the market is willing to pay. (D. Shoup, The High Cost of Free Parking 2011) By allowing the price of parking to adjust, it removes the subsidy for vehicle ownership, which increases the cost and will decrease the amount of vehicles in the cycle of traffic.