Meet PRN Member Ryan Martyn

As PRN grows we’re highlighting members making important contributions to parking reform. Today, we spoke with Portland native and recent urban studies graduate, Ryan Martyn.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I was born in Portland and have lived in Oregon my whole life. I’ve always been interested in architecture and cities. When I was younger, I was always playing with Legos and had my own little Lego city that I was constantly designing and building. I’ve pursued this interest through a career in architecture and degrees in community development and urban studies. I love riding my bike around the city and taking in the surroundings, cooking with local veggies, and geeking out on design and radical economic theory. 

How did you discover parking reform?

After starting my first job in architecture, I quickly became frustrated with regulations like parking requirements. I witnessed firsthand the ways that these requirements end up preventing housing from being developed. At the time, I lived in Bend, a small, Central Oregon town with a rapidly rising median home price and a desperate need for housing that typical people can afford. It became really frustrating to see the housing market boom while simultaneously dealing with regulations that increase the cost of providing middle housing to a point that projects are not financially feasible.

Around this same time, I joined a Facebook group all about urban planning articles and memes called NUMTOTS (New Urbanist Memes for Transit Oriented Teens). I came across a summarized version of The High Cost of Free Parking in the group and read it for fun. Ever since then, parking reform has been a topic I’m surprisingly passionate about.

What important issue has the largest impact on parking?

The most important issue to me is using land in a way that is human-centered and is better aligned with the needs of a community. Right now, cities are facing extreme housing shortages along with extreme weather events, and parking plays a role in both. Cities are at a point where they need to dramatically decrease emissions and increase the supply of housing. I see using parking lots to create complete neighborhoods as a really effective approach to accomplish both. 

We hear you recently defended your thesis. Could you share your research findings with us?

In my thesis, I discuss the planning concept of the complete neighborhood, A.K.A. the 20-Minute Neighborhood / 15-Minute City. The concept basically says that if you can reach any daily essential within a 20-minute one-way trip via active transportation (walk, bike, public transit), then you live in a complete neighborhood. In the paper, I critique the concept and suggest that the complete neighborhood should focus on a 10-minute round trip by foot to better align with people’s – especially drivers’ – willingness to walk. I also get more specific about what essentials are included in the concept and how essentials vary by culture and identity, along with the need to provide essentials to those who are excluded from the free market. 

I then take a look at the opportunities that parking lots and vacant land present to improve completeness within Portland. Here are the parking-related findings:

  • Portland has 27.6 square miles of parking occupying 19% of the city
  • Across five case studies, an average of 58% of parking lots are feasible to develop into housing/mixed use
  • Developing parking lots and vacant land into housing allows for a 234% increase in population within case study boundaries
  • Throughout the city, 18% of parking lots meet the regulatory and dimensional requirements to be converted to housing or mixed-use developments
  • Creating infill housing on all feasible parking lots and vacant land would allow Portland to more than double the population

Read Ryan’s thesis in its entirety.

Ryan’s thesis illustrates the impact parking lot infill could have on the urban landscape.

What’s next for your career? How do you plan to stay involved in parking reform after graduation?

Still figuring that out! I have a part-time design job but am applying to architecture, planning, and economic development roles. My research was inspired by the work that the Albina Vision Trust is doing, and I would eventually like to create an organization that does something similar. I’m also really interested in community land trusts and decommodified housing. Ultimately, my dream role is to help create more human-centered places like those pictured above through some type of design and development position.

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