In 2015, Strong Towns led a landmark campaign in the fight to end costly parking mandates by developing a crowdsourced map of cities that have eliminated minimum parking requirements. Circulating far and wide, this map has been an emblem in illustrating where cities have made progress to prioritize people over cars, and inspires other communities to do the same.
The increasing number of entries reminds us that not all parking reform policies are created equal. Some cities have eliminated minimum requirements for all land uses citywide (a gold standard!), while others have reduced minimums along a 500-foot historic corridor, and still others have eliminated minimums for a specific land use within a CBD. Understanding the wide variation keeps us honest about the movements’ progress and reveals opportunities for continued advancement. With this in mind, we are excited to announce that this map is getting a facelift.
PRN saw an opportunity to strengthen the map by conveying distinctions between the type of policy, identifying the land uses affected, and illustrating the geography it applies to. For the past year, we have worked alongside StrongTowns to capture the juicy details within the zoning codes of the 200 entries submitted since the map’s inception. We’ve reimagined and crystallized the nuances within this unique dataset. Knowledge IS power—by sharing what policies communities adopted (and direct links to ordinances and codes), we’re hoping to empower others to better understand good parking reform and apply it to their own communities.
- When it comes to parking codes, multifaceted is the norm and simplicity is the exception. The simplest way to integrate parking reform in a zoning code is to declare that “there are no provisions that establish a minimum number of off-street parking spaces for development for all land uses” or to state that all minimum requirements will be converted to maximums. This is easy to implement, clear for readers to understand, and a tremendous advancement in making your city more livable. But more often, communities address a variety of use cases through writing many complex provisions.
For example, a zoning code may include provisions to eliminate minimums in a central business district for all land uses…another provision to eliminate requirements for just commercial land uses along a specific corridor…another provision to be eligible to reduce residential requirements in another area…another provision to reduce a percentage of parking requirements if additional bicycle parking is included on site…another provision about maximums along pedestrian-oriented or transit-oriented land uses…you get the picture. While these provisions are an important step to accomplish parking reform, high levels of intricacy can create confusion for incoming developments, make it more technically challenging for staff to make adjustments, and limit growth. As the success of citywide parking reforms continue to increase, we hope the number of provisions will continue to decrease.
- A large number of cities eliminated minimum requirements for a small portion of their communities. Of the 200 examined codes, approximately 20% have abolished or reduced parking mandates citywide. The remainder have eliminated parking requirements in specific areas such as a downtown, main street, or historic district. In fact, several codes limited parking reforms to two to four blocks within a downtown or commercial district, as seen below. Eliminating minimum parking requirements is progress no matter which way you cut it, but limiting it to such an insignificant area also limits the positive impacts of these policies.
- Parking reform heavily leans toward commercial land uses. More often than not, parking requirements for commercial land uses are the first to go. Nearly every map entry eliminates mandates for commercial/retail development, facilitating walkable downtowns and commercial districts, but residential reform is just as important and has much more conservative parking ratios. Parking requirements for residential land uses are typically reserved for individuals and remain vacant for large portions of the day. Tackling residential parking requirements remains a major opportunity in the parking reform movement.
- Parking maximums are not uncommon. Parking maximums (a required cap on the total number of parking spaces constructed) have been a polarizing reform strategy in recent years due to concerns surrounding developer push-back and vehicle access limitations. But with 45 code entries–many of which arein communities with under 50,000 people–they seem to be less controversial than anticipated. One of the many benefits of having a crowdsourced map is that communities adopting bold and progressive reforms can share their accomplishments, encourage others to do the same, and create a cycle of parking reform throughout the country. But don’t take our word for it, check out the map!
WHAT’S NEW WITH THE MAP
The updated map features colors indicating the geography (or scope) that each parking reform policy applies to. While the ideal policy would be to eliminate costly parking mandates citywide, many communities only have this provision for specific land uses and/or specific geographies. Accordingly, citywide policies have been marked in red to reflect their importance.
The drop-down menu on the left hand side of the map allows users to filter new categories regarding key reform information. In addition to the ‘scope of reform’ featured in the legend/colors, ‘policy change’ allows users to disseminate just how many cities have implemented parking maximums, eliminated minimums, or simply reduce existing requirements. The ‘affected land use’ filter allows users to view which land uses reform policies apply to. Finally, the population slider on the bottom of the drop-down
, alters the population size on the map. Users can easily search for cities that have eliminated minimum parking requirements in transit-oriented areas, or cities that have eliminated parking mandates for residential land uses in the City center. You might notice some overlap and/or inconsistencies in the policy change or the affected land uses, and that is because many codes apply different reform policies to different areas of their communities, which is captured in full on the ‘detailed information and citations’ page.
Perhaps the most exciting difference in this map is that users can view the word-for-word zoning code language adopted by each of the communities on the map. Anytime you find yourself wondering what exactly the flagship zoning code looked like in Buffalo NY that eliminated minimum parking requirements citywide, then look no further. We have also provided links to the municipal codes so viewers have the option to scroll through it themselves. Are you wondering why your city isn’t on the map? Got a reform you would like to share? Please fill out this form to get on the map! Or feel free to reach out with other questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.