How to Abolish Parking Minimums: Lessons from the Twin Cities

Cities around the country are eliminating parking minimums in an effort to reduce the costs of housing construction and encourage car-free living.

1 minute read

September 7, 2021, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Saint Paul Minnesota

Jeremy Noble from St. Paul, United States / Wikimedia Commons

With both Minneapolis and St. Paul abolishing minimum parking requirements, writes Kea Wilson, "the Twin Cities region is now the largest metro in the U.S. to introduce the progressive reform. The smaller communities of Buffalo and Hartford both made the move in 2017, and hundreds of other smaller municipalities have eliminated minimums in designated districts."

Minimum parking requirements, which are often blamed for raising the cost of housing construction, were also identified by Minneapolis "as a barrier to achieving its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2040." More recently, "the city of St. Paul said it would 'fully eliminate off-street parking minimums for real estate developments … modernizing [their] zoning codes and aligning them with best practices for land use while reducing administrative burdens for small businesses and developers.'"

Wilson highlights four key takeaways that can help advocates in other cities achieve similar success.

  1. "Make parking policy personal" by reaching out to local stakeholders and policymakers. 
  2. Organize tirelessly.
  3. Show positive examples from other cities.
  4. Take the plunge.

Because eliminating parking minimums still gives developers the option to build as much parking as they want, "the reform should be a low bar to clear." According to St. Paul Council Member and car-free commuter Mitra Jalali, "[c]ities should just do this. Just do it! It really can be that simple."

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