Is the Era of Over-Parking Over?

Cities like Vancouver are rethinking parking minimums as they try to meet climate goals, reduce traffic, and reallocate street space to other modes.

1 minute read

January 11, 2021, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Parking Lot

The United States has around eight parking spots for every car in the country. | Alex / Flickr

To counter the current model of prioritizing parking with each new development, Vancouver's city council approved a motion shifting focus toward "open option parking," giving developers a choice when it comes to providing on-site parking. Acknowledging that car owners will look for on-street parking, the city is also implementing a permit parking system for resident vehicles. The goal, writes Frances Bula for the Sightline Institute, is to signal to the public that "roads are not free space or a right to free car storage," a mentality that has prevailed for decades in cities.

Like many cities, Vancouver has a parking requirement of roughly one stall for every residential unit and similar rules for different types of commercial and office space. Removing these requirements would make it the second Canadian city, and only one of a few in North America, to legalize optional on-site residential parking in the entire city.

Critics of "excessive" parking mandates argue that the regulations raise the cost of construction, reduce the space available for pedestrians, bikes, and other uses, and prioritize car owners above everyone else. As cities move to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, alleviate congestion, and provide more affordable housing, parking policies have come to signify an outdated planning tool that negatively impacts neighborhoods and the environment.

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