A long time ago, somebody in some room somewhere came up with minimum parking requirements. Those random formulas soon became boilerplate code for cities and counties across America, regardless of how much people actually needed the expensive-to-build parking spots. The problem is particularly acute near transit, where cars are by definition less necessary.
As I blogged back in 2012 about a profile on UCLA parking guru Don Shoup, the requirements are stunning in their mindlessness:
Funeral parlors? A basic formula is eight parking spaces plus one for each hearse. Convents? One-tenth of a space per nun is fine. Adult bookstores? One space for every prospective patron plus one for the cashier holding the longest shift (no mention of the flasher in the alley). Public swimming pools? One space for every 2,500 gallons of water on the premises, chlorine included.
But it looks like Miami, the U.S. city most likely to be the first to fall to climate change, is pioneering a more rational, albeit baby-step reform. A proposed zoning change would eliminate parking minimums for buildings under 10,000 square feet near public transit. To be clear, developers could build or contract for more parking if the market demanded it. The upshot of removing pointless parking is cheaper housing and rents for everyone.
The Miami Herald published an effective op-ed from young professionals couching the parking requirement as part of the overall mismatch between land use policy and emerging demand:
What baffles us most is why housing targeted to our generation should be required to have parking at all. Our grandparents’ love affair with the car is outdated. We don’t want to spend all our money buying and maintaining a car. We don’t want the guilt of contributing to air pollution and energy consumption. We don’t want to worry about having a designated driver. And we definitely don’t want to grow old waiting in traffic.
If Florida can pioneer this move from Golden Girls-era parking to a more contemporary policy approach, perhaps other cities and states around the country will follow suit.