Removing the shackles of parking minimums

What are Minimum Parking Requirements?

Parking minimums are local laws that require private businesses and residences to provide at least a certain number of off-street parking spaces. Minimum parking requirements hinder the potential of cities such as Charlottetown by filling them with unproductive, empty parking spaces that don’t add value to our places.


The first minimum parking requirement was established in 1923 in Columbus, Ohio. By the 1950s, parking minimums had grown to become a staple of North American urban planning—a catalyst for how the automobile was to define North America and the shape of its cities.

In recent years, transportation planners have been pointing out that parking minimums increase the distance between destinations, making cities and towns less walkable, thereby perpetuating a cycle of less viable transit and mobility options, the need for more driving, and—subsequently—even more parking.

The social, economic, and environmental costs

According to Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Urban Planning at UCLA Donald Shoup, parking requirements increase traffic congestion, pollute the air, encourage sprawl, raise housing costs, degrade urban design, prevent walkability, damage the economy, and penalize everyone who cannot afford a car. Despite all the harm off-street parking requirements cause, they remain almost an established religion in zoning practice.

The benefits of eliminating parking minimums

By removing the shackles of mandated parking, cities and towns can lower business costs, reduce sprawl and make transit safer and more convenient for everyone. It’s time to stop prioritizing parking over people, writes Mac Dressman, a Transform Transportation associate with the US-based PIRG (Public Interest Research Group).

Daniel Herriges, an urban and regional planner, proposes a “press one key” solution [customised by author] to reforming parking policy:

  • Open the cityʼs zoning code.
  • Go to Section 44 (General Provisions for Parking)
  • Swipe over the whole parking section with your mouse and highlight it.
  • Hit the delete button.

A Canadian first

In July 2020, Edmonton became the first major Canadian city to eliminate off-street parking minimums citywide.

“This policy removes barriers for new homes and for businesses, and
improves choice and flexibility in how businesses and homeowners
meet their future parking needs.”

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson

A Canadian second

In an effort to provide more flexibility for businesses when it comes to parking, Calgary City Council voted in November 2020 to allow some businesses to avoid commercial parking requirements. The decision was approved, according to the Cityʼs Web site, which states that
This change:

  • Allows businesses and developers to advise how much parking makes sense for their development
  • Decreases indirect parking costs that would be passed onto consumers, businesses and tenants
  • Creates an urban form that encourages walking, cycling and transit
  • Enables spaces to be designed for people rather than for vehicles
  • Encourages more active modes of transportation over driving

A Herculean task?

Getting rid of parking minimum requirements can be surprisingly challenging. In this truly inspiring one-hour webcast (it also involves housing), you’ll learn from a team of advocates and local leaders who successfully accomplished this feat in their city of Edmonton, Alberta.

Call to action

If you believe the City should review its minimum parking requirements, write to your councillor (see Links at right), using any of the reasons listed above, or in the articles below [some are repeats of hyperlinks in this post].

Related articles:

Author: New Charlottetown Project

Barbara Dylla has lived in Charlottetown since 2017. The aim of this blog is to inspire and encourage Charlottetowners to be more aware of municipal affairs, to participate as engaged citizens, to support an issue close to their heart, so that together we create a sense of the larger community we live in. And, along the way, become a united community passionate about making Charlottetown the best it can be.

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