WEBINAR: People Over Parking *RESCHEDULED*

by Ian Thomas, State and Local Program Director

With our regrets, we are postponing April’s webinar broadcast, “People over Parking,” to a future date. Check back for updates!

The City of Atlanta requires new condominium buildings to provide at least one parking space per bedroom. Anyone opening a restaurant in Los Angeles must make sure there’s a space for every 100 square feet of interior area (meaning the parking lot is larger than the building). And even elementary schools are not exempt – in Indianapolis, one spot is required for every 20 students!

Concocted in the 1950s as part of “America’s love affair with the automobile,” cities and towns enacted minimum parking requirements for new development, and they have become a major barrier to walkable communities. By mandating vast areas of parking for every building, these codes encourage sprawling development in greenfield areas – they push destinations further apart, making driving unavoidable for most journeys, creating hostile walking environments, and increasing transportation-related carbon emissions.

There are also economic consequences! The cost of land and labor to create all those parking lots and structures adds hundreds of dollars per month to the rent for a small apartment or business unit, putting them out of reach for low-income residents and local entrepreneurs.

The Harm of Minimum Parking Requirements

The idea of parking reform started gathering momentum in 2005 with the publication of “The High Cost of Free Parking” [1], although author Donald Shoup (an urban planning professor at UCLA) had been researching and writing about the issue for decades.

Aerial view of a parking lot

Description automatically generated

Designed for a lay audience, the book exposed the folly of minimum parking requirements in simple terms. In addition to explaining the negative health, safety, environmental, and economic impacts, the methodology for determining how many parking spaces must be constructed was shown to be arbitrary and unscientific. This is evident from the enormous areas of parking lots in almost every American city and town, which remain unused even on the busiest shopping day of the year. The book opened people’s eyes to the cause of this problem and how to solve it!

Over the last two decades, local advocacy campaigns have led to code changes in thousands of cities, according to the Parking Reform Network [2]. These have mostly involved reducing the number of spaces required for a particular commercial or residential use and creating special “districts” with no mandates at all.  In 2015, the Minneapolis City Council voted to eliminate parking requirements for apartment buildings with up to 50 units within a quarter-mile of a major transit stop. Since surface parking costs $5,000–$10,000 per space, rising to a staggering $25,000–$50,000 for structured parking [3], and one space increases the monthly rent by $225 on average [4], developers are now building fewer spaces, “unbundling” parking from housing, and offering tenants much lower rents if they do not own a car.  Minneapolis went on to abolish “parking minimums” entirely in 2021 – since then, the population has continued to grow while “vehicle miles traveled” have fallen.

Because of parking mandates, huge areas of countryside have been paved. Analysis by Richard Florida [5] shows that Des Moines, IA has nearly 30 parking spaces per acre while Jackson, WY has more than 50 spaces per acre. With each space occupying about 300 square feet, this means that more than one-third of the entire land area in the City of Jackson has been dedicated to parking. And with a residential density of just two households per acre, the typical distances someone might travel to go to a restaurant or visit a friend are far too large, so no-one walks or bikes anywhere.  It’s also important to note that most of the parking spaces are empty most of the time, making the landscape extremely bleak.

A busy city street with cars and buildings

Description automatically generated

How Removing Parking Mandates Can Lead to More Affordable Housing and Walkability

In late January, just three weeks before the start of the 2024 Minnesota State Legislative Session, State Senator Omar Fateh unveiled the “MN People over Parking Act” at a press conference in St. Paul, MN [7, 8]. Under this legislation, if enacted, the State of Minnesota would withdraw a zoning entitlement previously given to its cities – namely the right to regulate land-use through parking mandates – and those laws would be taken off the books, statewide.

Present alongside Sen. Fateh on the speakers’ podium was U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (MN-5).  Rep. Omar was involved in the City of Minneapolis’ parking reform efforts during the late 2010s and, in her current role as a Member of Congress, she is a co-sponsor of “HR-3145, People Over Parking Act of 2023.”  Introduced last year by Robert Garcia (CA-42) this federal bill would prohibit parking mandates within a half-mile of major transit stops and stations, nationwide [9].

Another speaker at the press conference was Tony Jordan, President of the Parking Reform Network [2]. A long-time organizer for parking reforms that combat climate change, allow more abundant and affordable housing, and reduce traffic casualties, he founded Portlanders for Parking Reform in 2015 and now leads the national movement.

All three – State Senator Fateh, Congresswoman Omar, and Mr. Jordan – will join Costa Mesa Council Member and America Walks Board Member, Arlis Reynolds and America Walks State and Local Program Director Ian Thomas for the webinar “People Over Parking: Advancing Affordable Housing and Walkability Through Parking Reform.” Webinar participants will learn:

  • How parking mandates negatively impact walkability, the climate, and housing affordability
  • Why the elimination of minimum parking requirements benefits individuals and communities
  • How to engage the issue in their state, city or town, or at the federal level

Parking Reform Resources:  

  1. The High Cost of Free Parking (book by Donald Shoup, 2005)
  2. Parking Reform Network (non-profit organization, founded in 2019)
  3. How Much Does One Parking Spot Add to Rent? (article in Reinventing Parking, 2015)
  4. The Price of Parking (analysis and article by Joe Cortright for City Observatory, 2016)
  5. Parking Has Eaten American Cities (article by Richard Florida in CityLab, 2018)
  6. How Developers Respond to Parking Reform (article about Seattle in Transfers Magazine, 2020)
  7. DFL Lawmakers to Introduce Bill to Ban Parking Minimums Statewide (Minnesota Reformer news story, 2024)
  8. New Proposal Aims to Make MN First in Country to Ban ‘Parking Minimums’ (KTTC news story, 2024)
  9. People Over Parking Act of 2023 (federal House bill introduced Robert Garcia, 2023)

Watch Our Previous Webinar:

Like all of our webinars, this will be recorded and available after the fact. But you’ll want to join us in real-time if you can for the opportunity to ask questions of our guests and live-tweet along with us. You’ll also receive ample resources and additional materials if you RSVP.

Join us: Wednesday, April 3rd *RESCHEDULED*

2:00pm – 3:00pm, Eastern