How Parking Reform Changed Development in Buffalo

New research quantifies the effect of parking reforms implemented by the city of Buffalo in 2017.

April 8, 2021, 12:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Construction Industry

Michele Lynn jasen / Shutterstock

"One of the most promising trends in urban planning is the push from a growing number of U.S. cities to reduce minimum parking requirements for new developments," writes Eric Jaffe.

Proof of the promise of parking reform can now be found in Buffalo. Because large-scale efforts to reduce parking minimums are still relatively few, Buffalo's status as an early adopted of parking reforms make it one of the few locations that has been undertaking the experiment long enough to provide data for evaluation.

A new study of Buffalo, which cut parking requirements citywide in 2017, shows that many developers will indeed build less parking if given the chance. The work, set for publication in the Journal of the American Planning Association, finds that mixed-use developers, in particular, “readily took advantage of the newfound possibility to include less off-street parking.” The 14 mixed-use projects tracked by the study provided 53 percent less parking than previously required — with four projects building no parking at all.

Study authors Daniel Baldwin Hess and Jeffrey Rehler, urban planning researchers from SUNY-Buffalo, write that the data prove that cities of all kinds stand to benefit from relaxed parking requirements. "Conversion of excess off-street parking spaces to such 'higher uses' benefits not only municipalities such as Buffalo looking to introduce a denser (and more walkable) urban form but also highly urbanized areas where developable land is limited," write the duo.

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