People Over Parking: Transforming Cities by Eliminating Parking Minimums

Last Updated on June 26, 2024 by Ecologica Life

Encountering wide, empty streets designed mainly for fast traffic can be jarring for visitors and residents, leaving pedestrians squeezed into narrow sidewalks and risking their lives crossing the streets. Huge parking lots make neighborhoods feel cold and lifeless, discouraging folks from walking, biking, or using public transportation. It’s a clear reminder of how cars have heavily influenced our urban design.

Now imagine streets full of life, not crowded with asphalt and taken over by cars. This may soon become a reality in Minnesota and many other places worldwide. Minnesota State Senator Omar Fateh recently introduced a bill to eliminate parking minimum requirements in the state. Like similar measures enacted in London, Mexico City, California, Texas, and elsewhere, the ‘People Over Parking Act” offers hope for a future where our built environment prioritizes people over cars.

There is a massive urban planning movement pushing for greater transit reform and better accessibility in our urban environments. Even the U.S. House of Representatives is considering a bill to eliminate parking minimums required for new construction.

Minimum parking requirements have long since shaped the development of our cities, taking up huge amounts of land that could otherwise be used for diverse housing, public spaces, and thriving communities. This strategy is unsustainable and makes our cities less livable and attractive.

Thanks to both exisiting and proposed reforms, change is finally underway and carries the potential to reshape our cities for the better. By eliminating outdated minimum parking requirements statewide, this Minnesota measure has the potential to increase housing affordability and accessibility by 10% to 20%, encourage environmental sustainability, and support small businesses by creating lively and walkable public spaces.

Endorsed by Strong Towns

Strong Towns, a national organisation committed to fostering robust local communities by advocating for smart and fiscally responsible policies, has endorsed this bill. This marks the first time Strong Towns has ever supported a piece of legislation, demonstrating the significance of this initiative. Additionally, they are confident that the People Over Parking Act will serve as a catalyst for creating financially strong, resillient towns that cater to the needs of people, not just cars.

Key Benefits of Eliminating Parking Requirements in Cities

What are some key benefits of eliminating parking requirements in cities? These changes would impact almost every aspect of urban life, including:

Housing Affordability

Eliminating minimum parking requirements enables developers to construct more units on the same lot, significantly lowering housing costs. This shift can save homeowners $40,000 to $75,000 per housing unit with no minimum parking mandates. For instance, cities like San Francisco, which have eliminated minimum parking mandates, save homeowners between $40,000 to $75,000 per housing unit by avoiding the high costs of constructing parking spaces.

As a result, cities like Minneapolis have seen a tangible increase in housing affordability. For example, in 2021, the Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to eliminate the city’s parking minimum requirements. The city has since experienced an increase in housing affordability. Additionally, a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis found that there’s been a significant increase in the housing supply in the Twin Cities.

Environmental Sustainability

By shifting focus away from parking, these reforms will encourage more people to take public transportation, bike, or walk instead of driving. One study found that people take 20% to 40% fewer trips in compact walkable neighbourhoods compared to car-dependent suburbs fueled by sprawl. This yields lower car emissions and less environmental damage in car-dependent areas. Likewise, these reforms can reduce the amount of land dedicated to parking lots and allow for more sustainable development.

Foot Traffic to Businesses

Lively and walkable spaces attract foot traffic that benefits local businesses. Additionally, eliminating parking minimums allows small businesses to benefit from lower rent or property costs than those in car-centric areas, ultimately freeing up additional resources for businesses to invest in growth and development. Many cities have successfully removed or reformed parking minimums, showing positive outcomes. In 2021, Minneapolis became the first major US city to eliminate parking minimums. In a report by Pew Charitable Trusts, the city saw an increase in housing units, reducing costs by 10-20%, and 19% more land has become available for building. Street parking remained steady, encouraging mixed-use projects, and decreasing reliance on cars for a more sustainable future. Other cities that have eliminated parking requirements include Berkeley and Sacramento, California; Austin, Texas; London; and Mexico City.

Increased adoption of measures eliminating parking requirements means this movement is growing in popularity as more cities recognize the tangible benefits of such a change. Cities seeking continued viability and economic growth would be wise to adopt similar measures. They would see immediate and long-term benefits and make their cities more livable, navigable, and environmentally friendly.

If you’d like to get involved with similar initiatives in your city, engage with your local government and state legislature to discuss the benefits of eliminating parking requirements. There are also national organizations, such as the Parking Reform Network, that can help empower you to advocate. Finally, you can spread the word to family and friends and educate them about the adverse effects of car-focused urban planning and policy.

About The Author

Sumayya Farah is a public health professional and community organizer, including experience working with the Minnesota Department of Health. She is the Co-founder and Chief Operations Officer of Nolosha, an organisation designed to increase quality of life for the underserved East-African community in Minnesota by addressing the social determinants of health. Farah graduated from St. Catherine University with Bachelor’s in Public Health.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave the field below empty!

You May Also Like