What’s the Problem?
Parking lots do not generate commercial activity, and too much parking restricts the amount of land that can be devoted to restaurants, retail spaces, offices, and residences. A successful downtown has the minimum number of parking spaces needed to allow customers, workers, and residents to store their cars when they are nearby. The most successful downtowns will feature sidewalks full of pedestrians, walking between the barber and the bank, the doctor’s office and the post office, stopping for lunch and doing some shopping. Many trips but only one parking space. With the space saved from reduced parking additional commercial or residential spaces can draw more people to the downtown, and more taxes for your community.
There are many strategies available to keep downtown parking to a minimum:
- Reduce or eliminate minimum parking requirements for some or all uses downtown.
- Allow or require developers to pay into a fund to be used for building public parking rather than providing parking spaces (see fees-in-lieu).
- Allow property owners with excess on-site parking to lease extra spaces or charge the public to use them during the site’s off-peak hours (see shared parking), or allow them to redevelop the excess space as building space if they can show that the spaces they are losing are not needed or if they pay into a fund to be used for building public parking in the future (see fees-in-lieu).
- Establish maximum allowances for how much parking may be built by use and/or by neighborhood (see parking maximums).
- Establish flexible parking requirements based on:
- alternative mode access (especially proximity of transit, but also pedestrian and bicycle facilities)
- expected demographics of residential developments (age, income, other auto-ownership factors)
- parking studies providing data to support requests to reduce or increase parking
- implementation of programs to reduce the need for parking spaces, such as parking cash out, un-bundled parking, shared parking, priority parking for carpools, or car sharing (see parking and transportation demand management)
- Count on-street parking towards minimum parking requirements (see flexible minimum requirements).
- Provide pedestrian and bicycle amenities and bike parking facilities (see parking and transportation demand management).
- Use excess parking areas during non-peak demand times for activities that draw people to the downtown area – farmer’s markets and weekend festivals, for example.