Adrian Cook’s recent blog post about parking got me thinking about a few driving-related issues. Adrian points out that most condo buildings only allow owners to rent out their parking spots to people who already live in the building. But oftentimes, that’s not the customer. The people in the market for a downtown spot are the ones who commute into the city. And so what we are seeing in many downtowns is an oversupply of parking. Municipalities need to adjust their requirements.
What I have found is that most, but not all, cities are now fairly flexible when it comes to urban parking requirements. They recognize the hypocrisy in trying to encourage alternative forms of mobility while at the same time mandating a certain number of parking spots. And so the driver is more typically the market. Empty nesters and families who buy larger suites — at least here in Toronto — still almost always want parking. And it’s a deal breaker for them. Sometimes they want 2 spots.
Of course, there are also many instances where the location and unit mix of a project can support building absolutely no parking. There are lots of examples of the market excepting this, and so my view on parking is that there needs to be flexibility. Parking is typically a loss leader. The incentives are in place to build a hell of a lot less of it. But developers build it because they have to.
Lastly, I find that discussions around car dependency tend to ignore that we have designed vast swaths of our cities to be positively inhospitable to people who aren’t driving. Adrian is right in that if you look at the modal splits for people who live in downtown Vancouver and downtown Toronto, you will find a lot less drivers. And that’s because the environment is much better suited to other forms of mobility. The solution starts with urban form.