Urban Centers

Throughout recent history, the norm has been to establish parking minimums, rather than parking maximums in residential and commercial building areas, thus increasing wasted space and encouraging car use.  However, creating a parking maximum in many of these areas, especially in new developments, may help to decrease car use in urban centers, and ultimately decrease greenhouse gas emissions.  Establishing urban centers such as the ones in Seattle may lead to a decrease in 400 tons of CO2 emitted, but the impact of the creation of new parking requirments has not yet been evaluated.

Strategies and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

  • Evaluate parking requirements in the zoning code to reduce the amount of land devoted to parking
  • Designate urban centers for employment and housing growth

Cost to the City
Parking maximums can provide a significant benefit for housing development. Parking is a substantial cost driver when constructing new housing and recent census data shows that these neighborhoods (in Seattle) have lower average residential parking demand than the current minimum parking requirement. By reducing the number of spaces per household to one space or less the property value is also kept at a more affordable price because it isn't inflated by a higher need for parking than is necessary.

Stakeholders

  • City residents
  • Pierce Transit
  • Development community
  • City government
  • Employers

Barriers

  • There is a concern that in the rush to build new public and urban amenities, many existing structures will be lost, such as residents' homes.
  • Existing building height zoning limits may need to be raised to encourage high-rise development.

Benefits

  • Energy consumption in multi-family residences and high-rise employment centers is far less per occupant than in their "stand-alone counterparts."
  • Curtails suburban sprawl by centering development within city limits

Partners
The city will need to partner with Pierce Transit, the development community, and employers to implement these actions.

Tasks
Developers must be encouraged to utilize transit-oriented development strategies, incorporating public transportation centers and stops into their designs.

Success Stories
Seattle and Portland
In 2005, Seattle created new multi-family parking requirements in several urban center villages within the city.  These new requirements were established to "reflect car ownership patterns in these urban neighborhoods."  Due to the nature of these neighborhoods, with excellent transportation, businesses, and other amenities nearby, fewer car trips are required, and thus there is less of a need for cars or excess parking.

London, England
There is some suggestion in this article on London's plan for parking standards that the council is too generous on the number of spaces allotted for housing developments. It outlines their reasons for wanting to reduce parking. For example, too much parking availability will severely discourage walking, cycling and use of public transport, increase traffic congestion and be detrimental to the environment and people's health. Over-provision of residential car parking often encourages less dense building forms and increases unsustainable travel patterns which is contrary to the aims of the draft plan.