Ottawa’s 90-second PSA concisely outlines the damage of a policy set in the past.

Of all the cities across North America relaxing their developer parking requirements, none can boast a PSA on the topic as clear and concise as Ottawa’s 90-second “Review of Minimum Parking Standards” video.

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 Ottawa wants to reduce or eliminate those outdated minimums for development that occurs in inner urban areas or near transit corridors, in line with a new city plan adopted in 2013.

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.

There’s obviously more to this discussion than a short video can explore. The biggest objection cities often face to such changes—namely, that a lack of parking will hurt business—is addressed by Ottawa elsewhere online. As officials point out, developers are still free to build parking if they see a demand for it; all this rule change would do is stop local government from forcing them to build spaces the market might not want:

Nothing in this parking study prevents someone from including parking in their development if they want to. It just reduces eliminates the obligation to do so under the zoning under certain circumstances, particularly on inner-urban Mainstreets.

Ottawa’s public consultation period ends this Friday, December 18, but the wider discussion about city parking minimums will continue for some time to come.

H/t: CityObservatory

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    On Paris Metro, Drug Abuse Reaches a Boiling Point

    The transit workers’ union says some stations on Line 12 are too dangerous to stop at. What will the city do?

  2. Design

    These Sneakers Are Your Free Transit Pass

    A new BVG-Adidas collaboration means unlimited travel along Berlin’s public transit network for the rest of 2018. That is if you can find a pair.

  3. Environment

    Britain's Next Megaproject: A Coast-to-Coast Forest

    The plan is for 50 million new trees to repopulate one of the least wooded parts of the country—and offer a natural escape from several cities in the north.

  4. Police cars outside the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City
    Life

    The Great Crime Decline and the Comeback of Cities

    Patrick Sharkey, author of Uneasy Peace, talks to CityLab about how the drop in crime has transformed American cities.

  5. Harlequin books are pictured at a store in Ottawa.
    Life

    Want to Make It in the Gig Economy? Emulate Romance Novelists

    Their three keys to success: They welcome newcomers, they share competitive information, and they ask advice from newbies.