Tuesday, December 15, 2015

On Minimum Parking Requirements: Yes, very true, Ottawa, Canada is a lot different than Lake Worth, Florida but. . .

Minimum parking requirements for many people sounds like a mundane subject but it affects cities, in particular, in a very profound way. Nobody has made this more clear than Donald Shoup and his book, The High Cost of Free Parking. I've cited Dr. Shoup and his book many times on this blog. What made him and his work stand out is this: while everyone else was doing research on how motor vehicles move from one location to another (the 5% of a car's existence), he researched what cars were doing the other 95% of the time—parked.

Interestingly, the City of Ottawa is having that debate right now and the public comment period ends this Friday (12/18). Many in that city are demanding big changes. Here is an excerpt from the document cited above:

"The resulting recommendations are also guided by directions and policies from the City of Ottawa Transportation Master Plan (TMP) including:
  • acknowledging the different transportation needs of urban, suburban and rural areas;
  • maximizing transportation options [emphasis added] for residents of all ages and abilities;
  • reducing public and private costs by promoting efficient modes of transportation;
  • reducing automobile dependence, encouraging shorter trips and by making walking and cycling more attractive than driving for short trips;
  • integrating transportation and land use by focusing transit-oriented development in transit nodes and corridors, and supporting intensification where transit, walking and cycling can be made most attractive;
  • ensuring that walking, cycling and transit are residents' first choices for transportation and using transportation demand management and supply management to make travel by walking, cycling and transit more attractive."
The City of Ottawa put together this spectacular YouTube video explaining what the city is attempting to do:

Here in Lake Worth, Florida, we have our Casino building at the beach and this is how it looks most of the time:
On this blog I've written about this subject quite a lot and here are just two recent examples, here and here. There are creative ways to solve parking issues but when the code is written in such a way that minimum parking is required this can be a burden for any business, especially small businesses, like a new restaurant that wants to open. 

Parking and traffic patterns go hand in hand. Like the wide road widths and one-way streets here in Lake Worth many things once thought to be axiomatic, like parking requirements, are beginning to be re-examined. You can see the evolution of development patterns here in the City. Compare the wide expanses of street widths in Vernon Heights, more a child of the 70s or 80s, and then compare that to some of our downtown neighborhood streets. They are much narrower and are supplemented by an alley network behind structures. 

As the automobile grew in its predominance some of the streets were made one-way downtown to get cars from point A to point B more quickly. But that came at the expense of pedestrian safety as cars picked up speed, many barreling down the road well over the speed limit. Lake and Lucerne avenues each were two-way up until the 50s or 60s. Many residents complain about high speed traffic on our north/south streets, especially north of the downtown. Making those streets two-way once again would solve that problem. 

There's a name for it: traffic calmingwithout the need for speed bumps. And did you know converting one-way streets to two-way increases real estate values, reduces crime, and is better for the environment? Read about that here.