VIDEO: Why Parking Minimums Hurt Cities

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Ottawa wants to reduce or eliminate those outdated minimums for development that occurs in inner urban areas or near transit corridors, in line with a new city plan adopted in 2013

City of Ottawa

Ottawa’s public service announcement video provides an overview of newly proposed parking rules that have been discussed in the city.

The clip accompanies a larger public discussion Ottawa has been having all year about new parking rules. The existing zoning codes, established half a century ago, require developers to create a certain amount of parking based on the type of building in the works—the sort of “parking minimums” found in so many cities. Ottawa wants to reduce or eliminate those outdated minimums for development that occurs in inner urban areas or near transit corridors, in line with a new city plan adopted in 2013, CityLab reported.

The video spotlights three reasons why:

  • To promote business and development. Parking costs a lot of money to build. Some commercial or residential developers can’t afford enough valuable downtown land to meet parking requirements, so they give up on their projects. Others build underground garages, which means they have to raise retailer or household rents or put up huge towers that can dramatically alter the character of a neighborhood. Eliminating parking minimums gives developers more flexibility.
  • To improve urban housing. As the video points out, the land set aside for parking can be better used for other things, especially in cities with high demand for housing. Instead of building 20 parking spaces, you can put up an entire new building with 20 apartments. Affordability improves, too, because developers don’t have to pass along up-front parking expenses to new tenants.
  • To reduce traffic and car reliance. When there’s a free or cheap parking space available to everyone, it’s only natural for more people to drive. That makes downtown traffic worse, dampens plans for mobility options like bike lanes or public transportation, and creates safety hazards for people on foot. Reducing parking minimums, especially in transit-accessible areas, gives the people in a city more overall travel options.

Read full coverage here.

Ottawa’s Zoning By-law Review: Minimum Parking Requirements

 Overview and Timelines

The City of Ottawa’s Zoning By-law sets rules and standards for development throughout the City. Among these requirements is that a specified number of parking spaces must be provided with most new development. However, these minimum parking requirements have not been comprehensively reviewed in decades; in key areas, the parking requirements are the same under today’s zoning as they were in 1964. Parking rules that were developed in the middle of the last century are working against today’s planning policies, goals and priorities.

The City of Ottawa’s new Official Plan, adopted in 2013, supports reducing minimum parking requirements in those parts of the city that have a high level of transit service and a walkable, mixed-use urban environment.
To implement this direction, the Minimum Parking Requirements Review will produce recommendations to Council on an amendment to the Zoning By-law. This study will deal with the parking minimums that apply in the inner urban area (generally the former Cities of Ottawa and Vanier) and near Transitway, O-Train and Light Rail Transit stations citywide.

The minimum parking requirements for rural and suburban areas that are not near rapid transit are not under review at this time.

Public consultation begins on May 4, 2015 with the release of the project Discussion Paper and will continue to December 18, 2015. A report and recommendation on how to amend the Zoning By-law will be presented to Planning Committee in early 2016.

Discussion Paper #1 (May 4, 2015)

Discussion Paper [PDF 1.438 MB ]

The purpose of this Discussion Paper is to:

  • Examine the history, rationale and consequences of the existing parking minima
  • Consider the evolving planning goals of the City
  • Consider some of the arguments for and against reducing these parking minima, and
  • Examine the options for reducing or eliminating those requirements under certain circumstances to meet those goals.

Once you have read the Discussion Paper, we encourage you to contact us with your thoughts on the matter.

Discussion Paper #2: Draft Recommendations (October 21, 2015)

The Minimum Parking Review has produced some draft recommendations on changes to the minimum parking requirements under the Zoning By-law.

Discussion Paper #2: Draft Recommendations, October 2015 [ PDF 1.595 MB ]

More information here.

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