Regulating Parking to Promote Livability

Document Sample
Regulating Parking to Promote Livability Powered By Docstoc
					Regulating Parking to Promote Livability
TABLE OF CONTENTS:........................................................................................................................................... I
INTRODUCTION .......................................................................................................................................................1
LITERATURE REVIEW ...........................................................................................................................................2
    PARKING POLICY .......................................................................................................................................................2
    LIVABILITY AND PARKING POLICY ............................................................................................................................5
DATA & METHODOLOGY......................................................................................................................................7
        Table 1: Selected Cities by Population ................................................................................................................7
        Table 2a: Livability Search Terms .......................................................................................................................8
        Table 2b: Control search terms ...........................................................................................................................8
RESULTS & ANALYSIS ...........................................................................................................................................9
        Figure 1: City of Petaluma, Minimum Parking Requirement ..............................................................................9
        Figure 1: City of Louisville: Minimum and Maximum Motor Vehicle Parking Based on Use ..........................10
        Table 3: Parking Ordinance Review..................................................................................................................11
        Table 4a: Livability Search Term Results ..........................................................................................................15
        Table 4b: Control Search Term Results .............................................................................................................16
        Table 5: Year of Approval..................................................................................................................................21
POLICY IMPLICATIONS: WHERE DO THESE FINDINGS LEAVE US?.....................................................22
CONCLUSION ..........................................................................................................................................................27
REFERENCES: .........................................................................................................................................................29


In many cities around the country the urban form reflects decisions made to accommodate the
convenience of the personal automobile. In response to the many problems associated with sprawling,
auto dependent communities, and to accommodate different lifestyle preferences, many municipalities are
incorporating policies into their comprehensive plans intended to decrease auto dependency and create
more livable communities. One of the greatest challenges communities face in achieving livability goals
is how to manage parking in a way that prevents it from dominating the urban environment.

Most municipalities, in an effort to avoid parking shortages, require developers to provide a minimum
amount of parking (outlined in the zoning ordinance) to accommodate peak parking demand. Minimum
parking requirements create an excess of parking which also makes choosing the personal automobile the
preferred mode of transportation, these parking requirements run counter to the livability strategies
outlined in comprehensive plans. This paper asserts that the stated policies and goals of a community
seeking to maintain and/or create more livable communities are undermined by minimum parking
ordinances and a lack of additional parking management and design guidelines. This hypothesis is tested
through a content analysis of eleven municipality’s comprehensive plans and parking ordinances to
understand how the two policy documents either support or disagree with each other.


In many cities around the country the urban form reflects decisions made to accommodate the

convenience of the personal automobile. In response to the many problems associated with

sprawling, auto dependent communities, and to accommodate different lifestyle preferences,

many municipalities are incorporating policies into their comprehensive plans intended to

decrease auto dependency and create more livable communities1. Many policies and goals

associated with livability incorporate land use policies and design guidelines aimed at producing

more pedestrian and transit-oriented communities through, for example, pedestrian amenities and

encouraging a greater mix of land-uses and activities. One of the greatest challenges

communities face in achieving livability goals is how to manage parking in a way that prevents it

from dominating the urban environment.

       Most municipalities, in an effort to avoid parking shortages, require that developers

provide a minimum amount of parking (outlined in the zoning ordinance) to accommodate peak

parking demand. Citing several studies on minimum parking requirements and excess free

parking, Donald Shoup, in his book The High Cost of Free Parking, argues that these policies

create a preponderance of free parking spaces that, “disfigure[s] urban design and accelerate[s]

sprawl” (2005, 130). Given that the data integrated into Shoup’s argument suggests minimum

parking requirements create an excess of parking which also makes choosing the personal

automobile the preferred mode of transportation, these parking requirements seem to run counter

to the livability strategies outlined in comprehensive plans.

        In this paper, the term “livability” refers to the quality of the built that is “affected by conditions in the
       public realm, places where people naturally interact with each other and their community, including streets,
       parks, transportation terminals and other public facilities, and so is affected by public policy and planning
       decisions. Streetscapes that are attractive, safe and suitable for a variety of transportation modes
       (particularly walking) are a key factor in community livability”. (Victoria Transport Policy Institute TDM
       Encyclopedia 2007b).

         The specific parking policies set forth by a municipality need to be consistent with the

broader goals and policies of the community outlined in the comprehensive plan2. However,

municipal zoning codes do not typically address issues relating to an oversupply of parking.

This paper asserts that the stated policies and goals of a community seeking to maintain and/or

create more livable communities are undermined by minimum parking ordinances and a lack of

additional parking management and design guidelines. This hypothesis is tested through a

content analysis of eleven municipality’s comprehensive plans and parking ordinances to

understand how the two either support or disagree with each other. The analysis suggests that

although many municipalities’ comprehensive plans have stated preferences for more compact,

pedestrian oriented and transit-ready neighborhoods, and often state the need to revise their

parking policies, few have updated the parking ordinances to be in line with the comprehensive


Literature Review

Parking Policy

Parking is a regulated land use in most if not all local zoning ordinances that typically require

developers to provide a minimum number of parking spaces based on either the number of

residential units, number of employees or the square footage of a commercial building.

Historically off-street parking ordinances were meant to tackle problems associated with a lack

of parking, and to eliminate on-street parking in order to increase street safety and lessen traffic

congestion (Ferguson 2003). Writing in 1940, Walter Behrendt describes a decision made by

Sears Roebuck to locate a new department store three miles out from the central business district

(CBD) where “the price [of land] was low enough to allow for the setting aside of a large parking

 “Comprehensive Plan” is used to describe all long term plans for the city; depending on the state this might also be
called the “general plan” or a “master plan.”

area… the convenience offered to the customer was enough to make up for the supposed

disadvantages of the unusual location and to secure successful competition with downtown

businesses” (1940, 464). With businesses continuing the trend of moving outside the CBD,

surface lots popped up in downtown areas to stay competitive and became, as Behrendt

describes, “eyesores in the heart of the city, bringing about the decline of other property values in

their vicinity” (1940, 465). As early as 1940, Behrendt noted that parking is important to

business yet negatively impacts the urban environment.

       Behrendt wrote during the time when minimum parking requirements were becoming

standard policy in cities around the country; policies that remain on the books today in many

cities across the country. This pattern leads to the most common criticisms leveled against

parking policies: that they utilize “less spectacular forms of travel demand management

measures” to anticipate parking demand (Garling and Axhausen 2003, 3). Today it is argued that

minimum parking requirements have the opposite effect as originally intended by creating an

overabundance of free parking that contributes to a preference for and dependence on the

personal automobile, intensifying problems associated with increased auto use (i.e. traffic

congestion, air pollution, fragmented urban form, etc) (Shoup 2005).

       Manville and Shoup note that parking is an “automatic aspect of the planning process;”

unlike the construction of highways, roads, etc., parking is built without much attention (2005,

244). Parking demand, as defined by Robert Weant and Herbert Levinson, is “the accumulation

of vehicles parked at a given time as a result of activity at a given site” (Shoup 2005, 23). Many

people assume that their parking demand will be met at no cost, thus cities use peak demand for

free parking spaces to determine the required parking ratios (Shoup 2005). In most cases, this

creates an excess of free parking. Shoup summarizes a number of studies conducted on parking

supply, citing one study looking at 10 suburban office parks in Southern California at peak

parking times. This study found that, on average, these lots were only at 56 percent of capacity

(2005, 82); stated another way, 44 percent of the parking spaces in these lots sit empty the

majority of the time.

        Minimum parking requirements have not only been found to create excess parking, they

also increase the cost of development. A typical parking space requires approximately 350

square feet of land (200 sq ft for the car and the remaining 150 sq ft for aisles and circulation)

and in many cases an additional 50 square feet is added to allow for adequate landscaping

(Barnett 2003). To build one space for a surface lot the cost is approximately $1000; to build

one space for a parking structure costs approximately $10,0003 (Litman 2002, 5-4.2). If, for

example, a developer is required to build a minimum of 100 spaces for their office building, it is

cheaper to build surface lots unless the cost of land is very steep. This in turn creates a situation

where developers will often look for the cheapest land to provide cheaper surface parking, which

contributes to less dense, less walkable and less transit oriented developments.

        While providing parking is costly on the one hand, proposals seeking to reduce the

amount of parking frequently face the challenge that reducing parking will discourage demand

for a given activity (Meyer and McShane 1983). Studies on the economic impacts of restricting

the number of parking spaces are mixed (Stills and Simmonds 2000). Summarizing several

studies, within and outside of the U.S., Stills and Simmonds note that policies reducing the

number of parking spaces have not had any real effect on economic activities, however, they

note that the affects of more aggressive reductions in parking requirements on economic activity

are not known (2000, 300). That said, this paper does not assert that parking requirements

 The cost to build a single space in structure parking ranges from ~$6000-10,000 depending on the size of the lot
and the number of floors being constructed.

should be reduced to such an extreme that would make business activity impracticable. Instead,

I emphasize the need to balance parking policies and livability goals so that one supports the


Livability and Parking Policy

Discussions and research on creating more livable communities often springs from arguments

related to sprawl, auto dependency and the decline of urban cores. In the last 50+ years,

development has tended to be low density, single-use projects that, in large part, result from the

way in which the automobile dictates development patterns in the United States (Forinash et. al.

2003). Some of the problems with these development patterns include: reductions in walkability,

transit feasibility, and open space; increases in traffic congestion, air and water pollution, energy

consumption, public health issues (such as obesity, heart disease, fatalities and mental health);

declining community ties and issues of social injustices (such as spatial mismatch and extreme

racial and class segregation) (Barnett 2003; EPA 2006). Parking policies that encourage the

creation of large expanses of surface parking in particular contribute to the decrease in compact,

walkable communities that many municipalities are now trying to recreate (Shoup 2005; Stubbs

2002; EPA 2006).

         Shoup argues that, in zoning ordinances, cars, over people, have become the main

concern (2005, 130). This in turn contributes to urban environments that are not oriented

towards people. Land used for parking lots results in less land for more productive uses, such as

office buildings or residential buildings, and creates less dense urban areas (Wilson 1995). The

amount of land given over to parking creates car oriented site designs, so that, as Wilson notes in

his study of suburban office parks, “pedestrians and transit riders face a long walk from the street

to the buildings. Lower parking requirements would have permitted more clustering of uses and

reduced the amount of land acquired for the redevelopment project” (1995). Wilson argues that

requiring so much parking creates an environment that is less accessible to the pedestrian and

prioritizes the personal automobile over all other modes of transportation.

       The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a paper discussing minimum

parking requirements as a barrier to creating more walkable, compact neighborhoods. They

argue that minimum parking requirements “creates a ‘dead zone’ of empty parking lots in the

middle of what ought to be a bustling commercial district or neighborhood” (EPA 2006, 6). As

previously discussed, minimum parking requirements force developers to create large amounts of

parking, creating a tendency for developers to seek out large, cheaper plots of land to

accommodate these requirements, contributing to less pedestrian oriented environments. For

example, a 25,000 square foot, four-story office building needs approximately four acres to

accommodate the building and meet parking requirements (if a surface lot is used); the parking

lot would cover seven times the amount of land of the building (Barnett 2003, 52). In this

example it would be difficult to create a pedestrian scaled relationship between the building and

the street front with so much surface parking.

       Minimum parking policies date back to at least the 1940s and have been replicated

throughout the country (with most cities using standards “developed and published by

professional organizations, including the Institute of Transportation Engineers”) (Forinash et. al.

2003, 2). As demand for more compact, pedestrian and/or transit oriented neighborhoods

increases, parking policies have not kept up with “the complexity of modern mixed-use

development and redevelopment” (EPA 2006, 7). Many of the goals, policies and strategies

outlined in comprehensive plans specifically seek to accommodate these. This paper examines

the preference for improving community livability on the one hand, with outdated parking

policies on the other.

Data & Methodology

A content analysis is the research method used to test my hypothesis that policies and goals

outlined in comprehensive plans seeking to maintain and/or create more livable communities are

undermined by minimum parking ordinances. Content analysis is a research technique employed

to make “replicable and valid inferences from texts to the contexts of their use” (Krippendorff,

2004, p. 18). The data utilized for content analysis is typically some sort of text (i.e. newspapers,

online journals, government reports or policies) (White and Marsh 2006). This paper applies this

technique to analyze the parking ordinances and comprehensive plans of eleven municipalities.

The cities were selected based on easily accessible and searchable plans, and are not a random

sample. An effort was made to select cities of different sizes and geographic locations to

examine if minimum parking requirements are common in cities in different regions and of

different sizes. A list of the selected cities, organized by population size, is proved in table 1


         Table 1: Selected Cities by Population
City                                    2000 Population
Forest Park, Illinois                             15,688
Burlington, Vermont                               38,889
Petaluma, California                              54,548
Boulder, Colorado                                 94,673
Gainesville, Florida                              95,447
Charleston, South Carolina                        96,650
Louisville, Kentucky                             256,231
Atlanta, Georgia                                 416,474
Seattle, Washington                              563,374
San Antonio, Texas                             1,144,646
Phoenix, Arizona                               1,321,045
Source: US Census 2000 Summary File 1

Each municipality’s parking ordinance is examined to answer the following questions:

                1.   Does it apply minimum or maximum parking requirements?
                2.   What is the required parking for a lot zoned single-family detached?
                3.   Are there specific parking design guidelines?
                4.   Are there procedures for requesting a variance (i.e. reduction in number of
                     required parking spaces for particular land uses)?

After reviewing the parking ordinances, I reviewed each municipality’s comprehensive plan to

identify policies and goals associated with livability. In order to simplify this process, I created a

list of search terms associated with “livability;” the terms selected are those noted to appear

frequently in the livability literature; the terms are listed in table 2a below. In addition, I

searched each plan for 5 general planning terms (control terms) to compare with the occurrence

of livability terms; the control terms are provided below in table 2b. The search was conducted

using Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional’s search tool. This tool counts the number of times a term

or phrase appears in the document; different forms of each of the words (i.e. walkability,

walkable or bicycle, bicycles, bike, biking or cycling) was accounted for by using the

“stemming” option in the search tool.

         Table 2a: Livability Search Terms                            Table 2b: Control search terms
Accessibility          Open space                                   Job
Auto dependency        Sidewalks                                    Bus
Bicycles               Sustainability                               Redevelopment
Compact dev            Transit                                      Children
Livability                                Transit options           Road
Mixed-use                    Transit oriented development
Pedestrian             Transportation choices
   Pedestrian friendly Urban villages / centers /
   Pedestrian oriented Walkability

        The number of times and the average rate each term appears within the comprehensive

plan are noted to provide some insight into the prevalence of livability language; these numbers

are also compared to the rate each control term appears. Additionally, the sections of the plans

where the livability terms appear were carefully reviewed; selected passages are provided in the

results section. The parking ordinances are compared to the comprehensive plan to evaluate how

well or how poorly the parking ordinances uphold the identified policies.

Results & Analysis

A summary of the findings from the parking ordinance review is provided in table 3 (see page

12). Nine of the selected cities have standard minimum parking policies and 2 have established

minimum and maximum parking regulations; my analysis did not find a single example of a city

that has removed all minimum parking regulations.

        Figure 1 and figure 2 offer examples of how parking requirements for different land uses

are described in a parking ordinance. In figure 1, an excerpt from the City of Petaluma’s zoning

ordinance illustrates a typical minimum parking requirement policy. This example lists the type

of land use (i.e. an automobile sales and service garage) and then the minimum number of

parking spaces required based on the size of the establishment, or based on the number of

bedrooms (if it is a residential or hotel land use).

Figure 1: City of Petaluma, Minimum Parking Requirement

Source: City of Petaluma 1973, Section 20-300

Figure 2 provides an example of an alternative parking ordinance structure from the City of

Louisville. The City of Louisville has established both minimum and maximum number of

spaces. This is one example of how parking policies can be established to allow for some

parking to support different activities but places limits to avoid creating excess parking. These

examples are meant to indicate the type of content examined for this analysis.

Figure 2: City of Louisville: Minimum and Maximum Motor Vehicle Parking Based on Use

 Source: City of Louisville, KY 2004, Table 9.1.2

        Each of the parking requirements for parcels zoned single-family detached are recorded

for each selected community to get a sense of how standardize minimum parking requirements

are (see Table 3). Of the nine cities that use minimum parking regulations, five require a

minimum of two spaces per dwelling unit for a single family detached home, one requires

three/du, and three of the nine require one space per dwelling unit. None of these requirements

include additional policies related to the context of where these dwelling units are located. Two

of the parking policies reviewed, Louisville and San Antonio, stand out because they have

established minimum and maximum parking requirements. In these instances the site/project

specific characteristics that influence parking demand are better accommodated because the

developer has some flexibility while still ensuring that there will not be excess parking created.

 Table 3: Parking Ordinance Review

                       Minimum or      Single Family -        Reduction      Design
                        Maximum           Detached             policy?      Guidelines

 Atlanta              Minimum          2 per DU          Yes              Yes

 Boulder              Minimum          1 per DU          Yes              Yes

 Burlington           Minimum          2 per DU          Yes              Yes

 Charleston           Minimum          2 per DU          Yes              Yes

 Forest Park          Minimum          2 per DU          No               Yes

 Gainesville          Minimum         1 per DU           Yes              Yes

 Louisville           Min & Max       1-3 per DU         Yes              Yes

 Petaluma             Minimum          3 per DU          Yes              Yes

 Phoenix              Minimum          2 per DU          Yes              Yes

 San Antonio          Min & Max        1-n/a per DU      Yes              Yes

 Seattle              Minimum         1 per DU           Yes              Yes

           All of the ordinances reviewed make allowances for particular developments to reduce

the number of required spaces in certain circumstances. In most cases the developer would have

to go through an additional review process in order to prove that the particular project will

generate lower parking demand. Seattle, Louisville, Boulder and Phoenix all allow for an

automatic reduction in the number of required spaces if the development is within a set distance

from a regularly served transit stop (ranging from 200 to 800 feet), however, only Louisville

specified the allowed reduction (which was 20% below the established minimum). Other cities

have some language giving authority to planning staff, the planning commission, or a

development review board to reduce the required number of parking spaces on case by case

basis. For example, the City of Gainesville states in their parking ordinance that:

               “the development review board or city plan board, through development plan
               review, or staff, when only staff review is required, may authorize a reduction in
               the number of required vehicular parking spaces, if it is determined there will be
               adequate access to the development by acceptable alternative means and that the
               reduction will not infringe upon the parking and access available to other
               properties in the area” (City of Gainesville 2006, Section 30-32).

This policy suggests that parking can be reduced if, for example, there is regular transit service

(“adequate access…by acceptable alternative means”) however, there is a missed opportunity to

more explicitly state that the parking requirements in areas with good transit service should be

authorized to have an automatic reduction in parking. In addition, there is no mention of how

large of a reduction could be granted if the criteria are met. If there was some information about

the maximum reduction allowed it may prompt developers to bother with going through an

additional layer of review (because they could weigh the cost of going through an additional

review with the savings they may gain from building less parking).

       All eleven cities have some parking design guidelines however, in most cases the

guidelines are vague and could be interpreted differently by different developers. For example,

the city of Phoenix’s parking ordinance states that: “If a parcel is used for surface motor vehicle

parking or interior vehicle circulation as a primary or accessory use, a wall and landscaping shall

be required along all sides of said lot” (City of Phoenix, 2007, Section 702); however, this policy

lacks specific information about how to provide the wall and landscaping in a way that fits the

context of a particular site. More detailed design guidelines can significantly influence the look

and feel of a development which contributes to the overall livability of the area. Burlington,

Vermont’s parking design guidelines stand out as being the most detailed with guidelines for:

location, layout, circulation, screening and lighting. The City states in the guidelines that:

               ”Parking can be one of the most challenging aspects of the development process.
               We recognize the necessity of having cars, yet they create their own set of
               difficulties when trying to make room for them in our growing community.
               Parking lots can quickly disrupt the historic pattern of buildings and undermine
               our efforts at preserving Burlington’s architectural heritage. No one wants acres
               of pavement and land is expensive; yet parking needs to be convenient, safe and
               accessible.” (City of Burlington 1999).

However, these guidelines are not part of the zoning ordinance; the guide is meant to provide

recommendations and is not referred to within the city’s code.

       After reviewing the parking ordinances, each city’s comprehensive plan was reviewed

using the livability search terms described in the methodology section. In table 4a and 4b on the

next page, the counts from this study are provided. The number of times each term appeared is

listed by city as well as the total number of livability terms in each plan; the average number of

times the terms appear in the plans is also provided. The word “parking” is removed from the

total; the number of times parking appeared in the text is noted to show that parking is

recognized by these cities as a notable issue but is not included in the identified livability terms.

       On average, livability terms appear 43 times within the plans; the control terms appear,

on average, 49 times. I am not sure what the control terms are, why you are using them and how

you selected the terms. I am not sure what the average means. I found it more interesting that

some terms were used consistently more frequent than others. Also, is there any connection

between the cities that use livability terms more frequently and whether or not their ordinances

had been updated. This indicates that overall that the comprehensive plans reviewed have

incorporated goals, policies and strategies into their comprehensive plans that seek to increase

“livability.” The terms that appear most often (on average) are: bicycle, open space, transit and

pedestrian with mixed-use and urban villages falling in the second highest range. It should also

be noted that the term “parking” appears as frequently as the livability terms that appear most

frequently. Conducting this search revealed that in most cases these terms appear in passages

that relate to the definition used in this analysis to define livability either directly or indirectly.

Table 4a: Livability Search Term Results
                                                                      Forest                                                   San
                        Atlanta   Boulder   Burlington   Charleston   Park     Gainesville   Louisville   Petaluma   Phoenix   Antonio   Seattle   Total   AVG
Parking                     117        24          104            6      147           92           92          28        59        26      306    1001      91
Accessibility                7        28           10           11        1             4            4          4        16         6       26      117      11
Auto dependency              9        11            5            0        0             1            3          5         0         0        0       34       3
Bicycles                   129        33           86           10       39           112           68         55       198        34      171      935      85
Compact dev                  2        23           10            5        0            15           22          0         3         0       14       94       9
Livability                  34        12           19            3        0            19           30          0         2         2       22      143      13
Mixed-use                  108        30           37            2        8            57           15         23        24         5       84      393      36
open space                  95        91           94           15       15            66           93        127       153        30      322     1101     100
Pedestrian                 214        32           87            8       57           122           94         23       161        26      412     1236     112
  Pedestrian friendly       12         0            2            0         1            1            2           0        5         3        15      41       4
  Pedestrian oriented       20         7            2            0         0            9            0           0       21         0        53     112      10
Sidewalks                   92         2           20            7       10            96           20          5        21        13        42     328      30
Sustainability              40        39           71            5        2             8            9          0        22        10        49     255      23
Transit                    152        43           75           31       21           104           78         46       243        27       415    1235     112
      Transit options        5         0            1            0         0            0            0           0        4         0         1      11       1
     Transit oriented
        development          2          1           1            0         5            4            0           0       20          0        6      39       4
choices                      2         1            2            2        0            28            2          0         1         0        17      55       5
Urban villages /
centers /                    4         1            5            4        0             0            0          0       103         2      381      500      45
Walkability                 28        17           28            8        2            14           13          6        24         8       69      217      20
              Total        916       363          549          111       155          646          451         294      971       163      2024    6643
           Average          65        28           42            9        19           54           35          33       75        15       169              43

Table 4b: Control Search Term Results
                                                                        Forest                                                   San
                          Atlanta   Boulder   Burlington   Charleston   Park     Gainesville   Louisville   Petaluma   Phoenix   Antonio   Seattle   Total   AVG
Job                          127         23          66           27        3             5           12         33        66        10      273      645     59
Bus                           19          3         174            4        3            46            4         13        78         3       27      374     34
Redevelopment                124         59          28           26       83           120           52         23        99        16       31      661     60
Children                      31          9          65            4        4             8            2          9        16         7       70      225     20
Road                         362         19          68           53       31            52           45         72        55         3        8      768     70
                  Total      663        113         401          114      124           231          115        150       314        39      409     2673
       Avg other term        133         23          80           23       25            46           23         30        63         8       82              49
    Avg livability term
               appears         65        28          42            9       19            54           35          33       75        15       169             43

       In addition to conducting a term search in each of the plans, a careful reading of sections

of the plan where the terms appeared and where the term “parking” appears was conducted. This

review revealed that improving livability (as defined previously) is a priority in ten of the eleven

plans reviewed; the City of Forest Park is the one exception. Forest Park’s plan emphasized the

need to increase the city’s parking supply and did not emphasize a need to increase, for example,

pedestrian amenities or bicycle connections. Examples of language using each of the more

commonly found search terms is provided below.


In Burlington, VT’s comprehensive plan, it states that:

               “Bicycles continue to play an increasing role in reducing auto dependence and
               improving the livability of the city. While bicycling may not be an option for
               everyone or every day, properly designed and maintained bicycle facilities,
               coupled with a well developed education and enforcement program, can help
               provide a reasonable reduction in the use of cars and an enjoyable and healthy
               mode of transportation for many.” (City of Burlington, 2006, V-16)

Here the city is directly linking biking to livability goals, which includes reducing auto


Open Space:

In the introduction to the City of Gainesville’s comprehensive plan, they state that:

               “The Land Use Element shall foster the unique character of the City by directing
               growth and redevelopment in a manner that uses neighborhood centers to provide
               goods and services to City residents; protects neighborhoods; distributes growth
               and economic activity throughout the City in keeping with the direction of this
               element; preserves quality open space and preserves the tree canopy of the City.
               The Land Use Element shall promote statewide goals for compact development
               and efficient use of infrastructure.” (2002)

In this passage a number of the livability terms appear; the city is clearly establishing that quality

open space, in addition to neighborhood centers, will “foster the unique character of the city.”


The city of Atlanta lists the following policies as attempting to “encourage pedestrian-oriented

mixed-use development aimed at reducing the demand for off-street parking:

                1. Encourage additional on-street parking throughout Downtown, Midtown and
                   other centers as appropriate.
                2. Encourage the redevelopment of surface parking lots into higher-density,
                   mixed-use developments.
                3. Encourage mixed-use developments with shared parking amongst the different
                4. Encourage the construction of parking decks with retail/commercial, office, or
                   residential uses at the ground level.
                5. Encourage participation in Transportation Management Associations to
                   encourage alternative modes of travel, promote shared parking, and reduce
                   traffic congestion and the demand for parking.
                6. Limit off-street parking ratios for certain uses within transit station areas.”
                   (City of Atlanta, 2000, 9-87).

Again these policies reveal that the city identifies parking as an impediment to creating more

pedestrian-oriented development, however, these policies have not been incorporated into the

parking regulations outlined in the city’s zoning ordinance


The City of Phoenix, AZ describes the need to redirect development so that pedestrians and

transit riders are prioritized:

                “A transit-oriented development pattern places increased emphasis on the
                pedestrian and transit rider by providing improved access in an environment that
                is more hospitable to both. The importance of the automobile is not reduced;
                however, it is reoriented so that pedestrian and transit riders have a level of access
                and convenience that is comparable to that afforded to automobile passengers.”

This particular policy is quite interesting because it recognizes that the automobile is and will

continue to be of great importance while acknowledging that there are also other modes of

transportation that the built environment needs to accommodate as much as the automobile.


Within the City of Petaluma’s general plan they define mixed use as a:

               “classification that supports a variety of uses, including retail, residential, service
               commercial, and offices. Development is oriented toward the pedestrian, with
               parking provided, to the extent possible, in larger common areas or garages”

This passage implies that the city views typical parking design (i.e. large surface lots) as running

counter to pedestrian oriented development and hopes to move away from this pattern by

encouraging parking to be clustered together so as not to dominate the area.


In the City of Seattle’s comprehensive plan, they describe the way that parking impacts modal


               “Long- or short-term parking is part of every car trip, and parking, especially
               when free, is a key factor in the mode choice for a trip. The availability and price
               of parking influences people’s housing and transportation choices about where to
               live and how to travel to work, shop, and conduct personal business. The City’s
               challenge is to provide enough parking to meet mobility and economic needs,
               while limiting supply to encourage people to use non-auto modes.” (2005)

In a different section of the comprehensive plan, they discuss maximum parking requirements:

               “Maintain maximum parking requirements to restrict the supply of available
               longterm parking and to encourage use of alternatives to commuting by auto.
               Favor short-term parking to meet shopper and visitor needs over long-term
               parking. Exempt residential use from parking requirements within downtown
               where residents can walk or have convenient transit access to work and services,
               in order to promote affordable housing and reduce auto dependency.” (2005,
               Section 8.8)

It is clear that Seattle recognizes that parking influences modal choice and that setting maximum

parking requirements and exempting some areas from parking requirements is essential.

However, this comprehensive plan was written in 2005 and the City’s parking ordinance was just

updated in February 2007. Within the updated parking ordinance certain districts can be

exempted from parking requirements, however, minimum, not maximum, parking requirements

are maintained. A counter example to this is provided from the City of Louisville. In

Louisville’s comprehensive plan, they discuss parking as follows:

                “Parking requirements should take into account the density and relative
               proximity of residences to businesses in the market area, the availability and use
               of alternative modes of transportation, and the character and pattern of the form
               district. Additional considerations including hours of operation and opportunities
               for shared parking may be factored on a site by site basis. On-site parking
               standards should reflect the availability of on-street and public parking. Parking
               standards should include the minimum and maximum number of spaces required
               based on the land use and pattern of development in the area.” (2000)

Consequently, when their parking ordinance was updated in 2006, both minimum and maximum

parking requirements were set for all land uses, and allowances for a reduction to these

requirements are based on the context and surrounding uses of specific developments. In


               “9.1.1 Relationship to the Comprehensive Plan
               The parking and loading standards prescribed by this Part are intended to
               implement the following Cornerstone 2020 Comprehensive Plan Goals and Plan

               City of Louisville, KY, 2004, p. 9.1-1

This is an example of how a connection can be made to indicate how the parking ordinance

works as the implementation arm of the comprehensive plan.

       The passages presented above are only a small sample of the goals, policies, and

strategies included in the comprehensive plans that I define as tools meant to promote more

livable communities. These plans are full of goals, objectives and policies that both explicitly

and implicitly seek to reduce auto dependency, increase walkability and many of the plans

directly address parking as something that needs to be changed in order to achieve these goals.

At the same time, with the exception of Louisville and San Antonio, the parking ordinances have

not been updated to support these goals, even when the comprehensive plans speak directly to

the need for a change.

          In table 5 (below), the year the comprehensive plan was approved and the year that the

parking ordinance was last updated is provided.

    Table 5: Year of Approval
                     Comprehensive            Parking
                         Plan                Ordinance
    Atlanta                    2004                 2007
    Boulder                    2005                 2007
    Burlington                 2006                 2002
    Charleston                 2002                 2005
    Forest Park                2001                 2006
    Gainesville                2002                 2007
    Louisville                 2000                 2004
    Petaluma                  19874                 1973
    Phoenix                    2002                 2007
    San Antonio                1997                 2007
    Seattle                    2005                 2004

In eight out of the eleven cities, the ordinances were updated (or re-approved) more recently than

the comprehensive plans. The parking ordinance supports livability goals in the comprehensive

plan in only two instances, the City of Louisville and the City of San Antonio. In all other

instances the parking ordinances have established minimum parking requirements that may

undermine the livability goals outlined in their comprehensive plans. Managing parking in a

way that avoids the creation of excess parking and incorporates design and other management

 The have been updated nine times since 1987; the last update was 1999; a completely revised general plan is
currently underway.

tools that promote pedestrian, cycling and transit is an opportunity to promote the livability goals

many communities hope to achieve.

Policy Implications: Where do these findings leave us?

There is a plethora of parking management strategies discussed in the literature and that are

currently being practiced in cities around the country. This section will highlight a few specific

policies that fall under the general headings of reducing supply and demand, and improving

design standards. This is in no way reflective of all possible strategies that very effectively

reduce the negative impacts associated with parking; this section is meant only to provide a few

examples of the many ways parking policies can be improved to support livability goals.

       The analysis suggests that although the municipalities selected understand the affects of

parking on livability goals, few have brought their parking ordinances in line with the

comprehensive plans. So what policy tools can be used to manage parking in a way that

promotes livability?

       There are many examples of ways that municipalities can manage and regulate parking in

a way that provides enough, rather than excess, parking and avoids the parking lot as the

dominant land use. There is not one single parking policy that will solve all problems associated

with parking, however, a combination of policies and design guidelines can accommodate

parking needs without creating an excess and can also better integrate parking into the built


       The first sets of policies discussed are aimed at limiting the supply of parking. The first

is changing parking requirements from minimums to maximums. As previously stated,

minimum parking requirements are calculated to satisfy peak demand for free parking, and

generally do not correctly reflect parking demand, consequently creating excess parking,

subsidizing the use of the personal automobile, and contributing to less dense, less walkable, and

less transit-viable urban environments (Shoup 2002; Wilson 1995, Forinash et. all. 2003).

Maximum parking requirements, on the other hand, limit the number of parking spaces a

developer can provide. London’s Department of Environment, Transportation and Regions notes

that “a balance has to be struck between encouraging new investment in town centers by

providing adequate levels of parking, and potentially increasing traffic congestion caused by too

many cars” (2001, Section 54). Instead of asking developers to provide at least a certain number

of parking spaces, developers are asked to provide no more than a certain number of parking

spaces. Maximum parking requirements allow the developer to decide the number of parking

spaces the market will allow for within the limit, which helps avoid excess parking. One caveat

to this is that maximum parking requirements need to include policies that require a minimum

number of spaces dedicated to persons with disabilities. Maximum parking regulations can also

be combined with minimum parking regulations, as is the case in Louisville and San Antonio, to

accommodate these issues.

       Shoup, advocating getting rid of parking requirements all together, argues that by

eliminating the inefficiency of requiring off-street parking, over time the “ratio of parking spaces

to people will decline” and the cost of parking will increase (Shoup 2005, 495). This is an ideal

strategy which, as Shoup goes on to suggest, would need to be implemented slowly over time so

that as the supply of parking decreases and the price increases, access to alternative

transportation options will increase, allowing individuals to make different choices. These

policies over time allow individual businesses and developers to decide whether and how much

off-street parking to provide. Those businesses, for example, that decide not to provide free

parking can sell their goods at lower prices because the cost of parking is unbundled from the

price of the good. Shoup notes that developers, business owners, etc., “will have every reason to

make the right decision because they will pay for their own mistakes—and will prosper if they

choose wisely” (Shoup 2005, 497). Additionally, businesses that rely more on walk-in business

no longer have to carry the costs of providing free parking which can contribute to more “mixed-

use and infill development near existing infrastructure and less greenfield development in

outlying areas” (Shoup 2005, 498). Whether implementing parking maximums or combining

parking minimums and maximums, these policies should be written somewhat flexibly, regularly

reviewed, and updated to ensure that parking supply is adequate (i.e. that the policies are not just

creating more congestion as people circle and line up to wait for spaces). (MGOSG 2006).

       Another parking management strategy aimed at reducing the supply of parking is a

shared parking policy. Shared Parking allows parking spaces to be shared by more than one user

(for example, an office development shares with restaurants that open after regular office hours),

reducing the total number of parking spaces built and utilizing existing parking facilities more

efficiently (Victoria Transport Policy Institute 2007). Shared parking can be coupled with

minimum or maximum parking requirements. This type of policy is potentially most effective

for parking lots that have significant numbers of unused spaces and have regular utilization

patterns for the filled spaces. Several of the ordinances reviewed for this paper allowed for

shared parking under specific conditions. For example, the City of Phoenix has a shared parking

model in their parking ordinance:

               “Shared Parking Model. The shared parking model can be used as a basis for
               predicting the parking demand for a particular mix of uses on a site as an
               alternative to the parking requirements table… The model assumes that every
               separate use will need the full amount of parking that is called for in the parking
               requirements at some point during the day (called the 'peak' period for that use).
               Where different uses need parking at different times of the day, there is an
               opportunity for them to share parking. The total number of parking spaces needed
               to serve a mixed use site (the parking demand) may be significantly less than the

               number of stalls that would nave to be built if each of the uses had to provide
               parking on its own.” (2007).

This policy incorporates the time parking is demanded into the formula used to calculate the

number of required spaces. In the best case scenario this policy is combined with other policies

that more accurately reflect demand; in the case of Phoenix, their required parking is still set by

minimum parking requirements based on peak demand which tends to overestimate parking.

       Policies that support reductions in parking supply seek to change the demand for parking.

Reductions in the supply of parking should be coupled with strategies that increase demand for

other modes of transportation through: transit investments, financial incentives for non-single

occupancy vehicle use, pricing strategies, investments in cycling infrastructure, and other tactics

supportive of transit-oriented development (MGOSG 2006). For example, transit-overlay zones

are a zoning tool that can identify areas within a specified distance of frequent transit service;

part of this zoning would allow for significant reductions in the amount of required parking in

these areas (EPA 2006). In addition, allowing reductions for senior or affordable housing

developments, neighborhood specific parking regulations, and parking freezes in particular

districts can help to manage parking supply to more accurately reflect demand (Forinash et. al.

2003, 4-5).

       Parking pricing can also help change the demand for parking and increase demand for

other transportation choices. In most cases, parking is “free” in theory but is really paid for

through subsidies by employers or retailers, or is bundled with the price of rent, building

purchases and consumer goods. Additionally, when individuals are charged for parking the rates

are typically not high enough to provide any real motivation for individuals to choose not to

drive (Litman 2006). Charging for parking may contribute to changes in individual

transportation choices.

       Individuals are often resistant or frustrated with paying for parking because they are

accustomed to it being free and because payment systems are inconvenient (i.e. they require that

you have an ample supply of change or even cash at all times). However, new systems that are

more flexible, convenient and more accurate are available to accommodate a variety of payment

methods such as coins, bills, credit and debit cards, and by cellular telephone or the Internet.

Additionally, these methods incorporate multiple rates, automatically adjust rates by day and

time, and charge only for the amount of time parked. (Litman 2006, 19)

       Parking facility design is another important aspect of managing parking. Improving the

physical design and layout of parking facilities is a good way to avoid having surface parking

lots that dominate the built environment. The Maryland Governor’s Office of Smart Growth

proposes the following five objectives that are intended to reduce the negative impacts parking

has on the environment and on urban character:

           Design sites such that vehicles are not the dominant feature;
           Provide necessary parking without large expanses of pavement;
           Minimize runoff from parking lots utilizing techniques to return surface water to the
           Encourage vibrant street level activity; and
           Create a safe and comfortable environment for pedestrians and bicyclists as well as
           vehicles.” (MGOSG 2006, 19)

Depending on the context of a particular city or site, different design schematics will be more or

less appropriate. A few examples of issues that parking design regulations should address

include (but are not limited to): the location on the site, landscaping and screening requirements,

architectural treatments, on-street parking instead of lot parking, parking structures rather than

lots, reduced stall dimensions, tandem/stacked or valet parking, regulate pavement materials,

limit curb cuts, provide separate bicycle and pedestrian entrances into any lot, provide pedestrian

walkways to avoid having to walk through or around large expanses of surface parking, require

pedestrian oriented lighting (MGOSG 2006). Generally speaking, design requirements that are

pedestrian oriented rather than auto oriented will have more success at achieving more compact,

walkable communities.


My analysis reveals that in all but one of the selected municipalities livability policies are

incorporated into their comprehensive plans. Many of these policies are intended to decrease

auto dependency and create more livable communities. Additionally, the results combined with

the literature review, indicate that parking ordinances need to transition from the standard

minimum parking requirements to more innovative parking management strategies in order to

achieve these goals. These strategies should take into account more then demand at peak usage

times by considering how reductions in the parking could provide opportunities to reduce auto

dependency, increase walkability, create more aesthetically pleasing environments, increase

transit usage and reduce the amount of impervious surfaces created by surface parking.

       The first step for municipalities is examining the relationship between the future goals,

objectives and policies laid out in their plans to their existing parking policy. A zoning

ordinance is meant to implement the policies outlined in the comprehensive plan; therefore

communities must consider how the parking regulations in their zoning ordinance limit their

ability to achieve these goals and should think more broadly about how more nuanced parking

management policies can promote, rather than impede, their vision for the future. Additionally,

when thinking about parking regulations the discussion needs to move beyond understanding

how to calculate the required number of parking spaces. The problems associated with parking

are largely related to requirements creating an oversupply of parking, but are also exasperated by

a lack of attention to design and context specific policies. Communities that want to reduce

personal automobile use, for example, need to consider how parking policies make transit and

other modes of transportation less attractive to individual users (i.e. why should I ride the bus for

20 minutes when I can drive in 10 and park for free).

       The goals and policies laid out in comprehensive plans and the parking requirements of

many municipalities are conflicting. My analysis confirms that there is a clear desire to reduce

auto dependency and create more livable communities yet most communities have not taken the

next step to update the zoning ordinances (in this case parking regulations). It is not to say that a

change in parking policy will solve all of the problems associated with our overdependence on

the personal automobile and/or allow for the ideal, “livable” urban environment. However, the

preponderance of free parking certainly makes choosing to drive an easier choice and impedes a

community’s ability to create the more vibrant, walkable, transit and biker friendly environments

they repeatedly state is the goal for the future of their community.


Barnett, Jonathan. (2003) Redesigning Cities: Principles, Practice, Implementation. Chicago,
       Illinois, Planning Press.

Behrendt, W. C. 1940. Off-street parking: A city planning problem. Journal of Land and Public
      Utility Economics, 16(4): 464–468.

City of Atlanta, Georgia. 2000. 2004-2019 Comprehensive Plan (CDP). (accessed October 2007)

City of Atlanta, Georgia. 2007. Code of Ordinances.
        (Accessed October 2007)

City of Boulder, CO. 2007. Charter of the City of Boulder, Colorado: Chapter 9-9:
        Development Standards.
        9.htm#section9_9_6. (accessed October 2007).

City of Boulder, CO. 2005. Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan.
        Itemid=1611. (accessed October 2007

City of Burlington, Vermont. 2006. Municipal Development Plan
        mont.pdf. (accessed October 2007)

City of Burlington, Vermont. 2002. Burlington Zoning Ordinance: Article 10: Parking
        (Accessed October, 2007)

City of Burlington, Vermont: Department of Planning and Zoning. 1999. Design Review Guide:
        Parking. (accessed October

City of Charleston, NC. 2005. ZONING ORDINANCES City of CHARLESTON, SOUTH
        October 2007).

City of Charleston, NC. 2002. City of Charleston Century V City Plan. (Accessed October

City of Forest Park, IL. 2006. Forest Park, Illinois Village Code: Title 9 Zoning Regulations:
        Chapter 8: Off Street Parking and Loading. (accessed October 2007).

City of Forest Park, IL. 2001. Village of Forest Park Comprehensive Plan. (accessed October 2007)

City of Gainesville, Florida. 2002. Comprehensive Plan. (accessed October

City of Gainesville, Florida. 2006. Code of Ordinances, Chapter 30 Land Development Code,
        Article IX. Additional Development Standards, Division 2: Off-Street Parking and
        Loading Regulations. (accessed
        October 2007)

City of Louisville, Kentucky. 2000. Cornerstone 2020 Comprehensive Plan.
        01207FFFE9C5/0/C2020FinalVersionwithgraphics.pdf. (accessed October 2007)

City of Louisville, Kentucky. 2004. Land Development Code: Parking and Loading.
        9280CAF8FB88/0/LDCjuly04_CH9.pdf. (accessed October 2007)

City of Petaluma, California. 1987. Petaluma General Plan. (accessed October 2007)

City of Petaluma, California. 1973. Zoning Ordinance No. 1072, Article 20: Parking and
        Loading Facilities, Off-Street. (accessed
        October 2007)

City of Phoenix, Arizona. 2001. General Plan for Phoenix: Preserving Our Past, Choosing Our
        Future. (accessed October 2007)

City of Phoenix, Arizona. 2007. Zoning Ordinance of the City of Phoenix, Arizona, Chapter 7
        Development Standards of General Applicability, Section 702. Off-Street Parking and
        Loading. (accessed October 2007)

City of San Antonio, TX. 2007. Unified Development Code City of San Antonio, Texas: Article
        III Zoning, (accessed October 2007).

City of San Antonio, TX. 1997. San Antonio Master Plan. (accessed October 2007).

City of Seattle, Washington. 2005. Comprehensive Plan: Towards Sustainable Seattle.
        ormational/cos_004504.pdf. (accessed October 2007)

City of Seattle, Washington. 2007. Seattle Municipal Code: Chapter 23.54: Quantity and
        Design Standards for Access and Off-Street Parking. (accessed October 2007)

Department of Environment, Transportation and Regions. 2001. Planning Policy Guidance 13
      Transport London: Department of Environment, Transportation and Regions. (Accessed March 25,

Ferguson, E. 2003. Zoning for Parking as Policy Innovation. Transportation Quarterly

Forinash, C.V., A. Millard-Ball, C. Dougherty and J. Tumlin. 2003. Smart Growth Alternatives
       to Minimum Parking Requirements. Proceedings from the 2nd Urban Street Symposium,
       July 28-30, 2003.
       rnatives.pdf (accessed October 2007).

Garling, T., and K.W. Axhausen. 2003. Introduction: Habitual Travel Choice. Transportation
       30: 1-11.

Krippendorff, K. (2004). Content analysis: An introduction to its methodology (2nd ed.).
      Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Litman, T. 2006. Parking Management: Strategies, Evaluation and Planning. Victoria
      Transport Policy Institute.

Litman, T. 2002. Transportation Cost Analysis: Techniques, Estimates and Implications.
      Victoria Transport Policy Institute. (accessed October 2007)

Maryland Governor’s Office of Smart Growth. 2006. Driving Urban Environments: Smart
      Growth Parking Best Practices.

Meyer, M.D., and M. McShane. 1983. Parking policy and downtown economic development.
       Journal of Urban Planning and Development 109: 27-43.

Shoup, Donald. 2005. The High Cost of Free Parking. Chicago: Planners Press.

Shoup, D. (2002). The Trouble with Minimum Parking Requirements. Victoria, British
       Columbia: Victoria Transport Policy Institute. Available on-line at: (accessed March 2007).

Still, B., and D. Simmonds. 2000. Parking restraint policy and urban vitality. Transport Review
         20(3): 291-316.

Stubbs, Michael. 2002. Car Parking and Residential Development: Sustainability, Design and
       Planning Policy, and Public Perceptions of Parking Provision. Journal of Urban Studies
       7(2): 213-237.

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Development, Community and Environment
      Division (1907T). 2006. Parking Spaces / Community Places: Finding the Balance
      through Smart Growth Solutions. Washington, D.C.

Victoria Transport Policy Institute. 2007. Shared Parking: Sharing Parking Facilities among
       Multiple Users. (accessed March 2007).

_______2007b. TDM Encyclopedia-Community Livability. (accessed March 2007).

White, M.D. and E.E. Marsh. 2006. Content Analysis: A Flexible Methodology. Library
       Trends 55(1):22-45

Wilson, R.W. 1995. Suburban Parking Requirements: A Tacit Policy for Automobile Use and
      Sprawl. Journal of the American Planning Association 61(1):29-56.


Shared By: