Parking minimums
STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul Villarete (The Freeman) - December 3, 2019 - 12:00am

Part 3

It is not yet widely known, especially in Philippine cities, and I doubt if there is already a city in the country which is seriously reviewing the concept of Parking Minimums. But in the United States, surprisingly, or maybe it is simply inevitable, many of their cities had already done so, and some already dismissed, or at least rationalized, their parking minimums. We wrote last week that San Francisco is one of the latest that did, last December 2018. Austin, Texas, is eyeing this year to end their parking minimums.

Buffalo, New York, was the first major city in the US to completely remove outdated minimum parking requirements. Berlin already did that in the 1990’s. Surprisingly, Auckland has also eliminated most of its minimum parking requirements, even if it’s supposed to be a car-centric city, too (both New Zealand and Australia are, running after the US). Not to be outdone, Mexico City initiated city-wide reforms, which not only eliminated parking minimums but turned them into maximums instead. Not only that but they offer a financial incentive in the form of a fee, to encourage developers to build less than what the maximums allowed.

What’s wrong with parking minimums? The most visible would be that they fill our cities with empty, useless space. Even if we reason that they do provide space for our cars, that’s something we could have done without is we took public transport. Or walk or bike. And that’s space imposed, set aside to park cars at times we are not using them, which is 95% of the time. Ayala Mall has four floors with three basements full of cars. In many buildings where there are no basements, the land area around it used for parking is oftentimes larger than the footprint of the building itself. Every three square meters of space devoted to economic production require around one square meter of parking pursuant to our existing building code.

Parking minimums also hinder homeowners, renters, developers, and business owners from further productivity. How many small businesses have extra space which could have been used for more sales but can’t because they cannot have parking needed? Furthermore, these deplete the city of financial productivity and prosperity. When land or floor space is used for parking, there is a foregone tax involved because parking is not taxed as much, and they could have fetched far more productivity in business revenues if not used to park cars, and which is commensurate to increases in business taxes.

A lot of cities elsewhere are seriously evaluating their “parking minimums” policies. But going beyond that, many of them are studying replacing them with “parking maximums” instead. That’s a revolutionary idea, but city after city are studying these now (not in the Philippines, though). Progressive cities in the world are rethinking these pre-set ideas about parking. After all, how many times has anyone, even here, thought about going somewhere but decided not to because “there is no parking there!” Aha! So, it does influence trip generation! (To be continued)

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