DC’s Scaled-Back Parking Reforms Still Way More Ambitious Than NYC’s

For five years, Washington, DC, has been preparing a comprehensive rewrite of its zoning code — including the elimination of parking minimums in areas well-served by bus or rail. Under pressure from opponents afraid it would make it harder for them to find on-street parking, DC planning chief Harriet Tregoning announced on Friday that the city will scale back its parking reforms. Now, parking mandates will be eliminated only in downtown and adjacent neighborhoods, and halved along transit-accessible corridors.

Parking requirements make it very common for new buildings in NYC to devote prime ground floor space to car storage. Photo: ##http://archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=6173##Travis Eby/Architect's Newspaper##

The news is undeniably a setback for parking reform in DC, prompting local urbanists to question whether giving ground on parking minimums is a good strategy, and if it might have been better to aim higher from the beginning.

From New York, though, the perspective is different. Even the scaled-back version of DC’s parking reforms seems like an ambitious, large-scale proposal compared to the timid changes coming from the Department of City Planning under Amanda Burden.

New York’s only significant reform of parking minimums under Burden and Mayor Bloomberg was to halve the requirements in Downtown Brooklyn, one of the nation’s most transit-accessible business districts. A few years ago there was some buzz about reducing parking requirements for “inner ring” neighborhoods — which would have been roughly equivalent to what’s on the table in DC now — but that ultimately went nowhere. Parking mandates remain in effect almost everywhere in the city aside from Manhattan south of 110th Street.

To implement a New York version of what’s currently on the table in DC, the city would eliminate parking minimums in downtown Brooklyn and cut them in half near subway stations and major bus routes throughout the city. But despite New York’s far more extensive transit system, the Bloomberg administration has by and large refused to touch the rules that require developers to build new parking — a system that makes traffic worse and drives up the cost of housing for everyone. Instead, the administration uses the guarantee of new parking to assuage residents worried about the impact of new development.

At a public meeting last month about converting the Sheridan Expressway to a surface street, one resident was worried that the plan, which would open up new land for development, would reduce the amount of available parking and lead to a parking crunch. “There are requirements under the zoning resolution as to how much parking is required,” replied Ted Weinstein, director of Bronx planning at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The resident had his question answered, and didn’t raise the issue again.

What if Bloomberg’s sustainability plan, PlaNYC 2030, had included the elimination of parking minimums near transit, like DC originally proposed? Maybe that would have been weakened by politics, the same as in DC. But scaled-back reforms are better than no reforms.


Shoup to O’Toole: The Market for Parking Is Anything But Free

We’re reprinting this reply [PDF] from UCLA professor Donald Shoup, author of the High Cost of Free Parking, to Randal O’Toole, the libertarian Cato Institute senior fellow who refuses to acknowledge the role of massive government intervention in the market for parking, and the effect this has had on America’s car dependence. It’s an excellent […]

Shoup: Cato HQ the Perfect Lab for Reforming Commuter Parking Subsidies

Last week we published a reply from UCLA planning professor Donald Shoup to Cato Institute senior fellow Randal O’Toole, in which Shoup clarified his positions on parking policy and explained several ways in which government regulations favor the provision of free parking. In response, O’Toole ran this post on the Cato@Liberty blog. Streetsblog is pleased […]

City Council’s Zeal for Affordable Housing Crumbles If It Means Less Parking

On Tuesday, members of the City Council hammered the de Blasio administration for not guaranteeing enough housing units for low-income New Yorkers in new construction. But yesterday, when the topic turned to building more affordable housing by reducing parking requirements, several Council members lost their zeal for housing and worried more about car storage. The hearing yesterday […]

Weisbrod and Kimball Tie Their Own Hands on Parking Reform

Reducing the amount of parking in new development promises to make housing more affordable and curb traffic congestion, but it hasn’t gained much traction in Bill de Blasio’s first months at City Hall, despite the mayor’s ambitious promises to ease the housing crunch. Today, two top city officials explained why, unlike their counterparts in more […]

This Map Shows Where de Blasio Wants to Reduce Parking Mandates

In February, the Department of City Planning outlined the broad strokes of how the de Blasio administration will seek to change the rules that shape new development in New York. After eight months of public meetings and behind-the-scenes work, City Hall’s proposals were released this week. The documents reveal details of how the city wants to handle parking minimums in […]