Parking Reform Roundtable | Your Questions Answered

Parking requirements have not changed since the 1960's. How can Dallas move forward?

On December 7th, AIA Dallas hosted a roundtable discussion on parking reform. Panelists included the esteemed Professor Donald Shoup of UCLA, Adreea Udrea of the City of Dallas, and Patrick Kennedy of Space Between Studio. The panel noted several of Dallas' current parking requirements and discussed theories and practices that other metropolitan areas have implemented in regard to parking reform. So thought provoking was the content that we received attention in a recent D Magazine article on this topic. Our lively audience had many questions that we were not able to address in the time allotted, so we bring them to you here. We hope you will take the time to read through these and consider the ideas being presented and how they relate to the city of Dallas. In case you missed it, a link to the discussion is also posted below. This event was generously made possible by Billingsley. 


1. What cities have eliminated parking minimums entirely?  I understand Buffalo has - any others? Are there any other cities that have eliminated parking minimums that are cities like Dallas that developed with the car (as opposed to before the car)?

From Professor Shoup (PS): Here is the link to cities that have removed their parking requirements. 

From Patrick Kennedy (PK): The movement to eliminate minimum off-street parking requirements is gaining momentum in a number of California cities due to increasing environmental awareness as well as astronomical housing costs due to prop 13 passed in 1978 significantly restricting housing supply.  However, the cities where parking minimums have been eliminated entirely that may be closest in size and form with Dallas are Minneapolis, Calgary, and Sacramento. It’s an interesting question in that minimum parking requirements like Euclidean (single use) zoning were integral policy changes in the 20th century that created the shift in city building from human-centric to auto-centric form where having access to a vehicle was a prerequisite to reasonable mobility, which is inherently inequitable.  The change does not occur overnight but over generations as cities build and rebuild with new codes and new priorities.  While removing minimum parking requirements is a fairly new concept, Minneapolis has good data showing that the development market does not suddenly stop providing parking, but the ratio of off-street parking spaces per bedroom steadily declines year over year as areas infill, become more walkable, and more sustainable.


2. What evidence or data do you have for any position that housing costs came down with the elimination of parking minimums? 

PS: Here is the link to a study in Seattle.

PK: There is not adequate data showing that housing costs have dropped because removing minimum parking requirements is such a new concept and housing costs are inherently complex with a number of factors driving those costs.  However, removal of minimum parking requirements can alleviate a choke point in the supply chain of new housing so that demand for housing does not outpace supply of units and therefore drive-up costs.
We know that land costs, particularly through the lack of availability of land due to the dearth of land zoned for multi-family development (whether those buildings be two units or two hundred) and the cost of constructing parking spaces are two significant variables driving housing costs in proportion to local incomes.  These are in addition to the commonly understood factors such as material costs and outside investment competing with local for available land and existing units. Similar to the Minneapolis case study, developers will not suddenly construct housing without any off-street parking.  They would not get financing.  However, we do know that minimum parking requirements are a significant impediment to designing, financing, and thus constructing new housing.  Removing minimum parking requirements would grant greater creativity in the design and financing process in order to get more units into the pipeline and thus, more rooftops over peoples’ heads and more tax base in city coffers.  Furthermore, as we learned during ZOAC meetings, the city permitting department stated they spend approximately 75% of their time simply counting spaces.

Some other factors worth considering:

• Minimum off-street parking requirements are particularly onerous from a time, cost, and design perspective for the small developer looking to build ‘Missing Middle’ housing.  Missing Middle housing such as duplexes, four-plexes, eight-unit buildings, and other similar small-scale structures are a critical component to providing a range of housing choices and price points.  They are also compatible with single family areas and should be allowed by-right throughout the city.

• Minimum off-street parking requirements cause significant over-supply and cost overruns for affordable housing development such as at Lancaster Urban Village across the VA Medical Center.  An NCTCOG study showed this parking garage never exceeds 40% of capacity and therefore the additional cost of over-supplying parking to an arbitrary code is a terrible waste of taxpayer resources that should prioritize housing people not cars.
• The additional cost of constructing parking, which can often reach 20% of construction costs is 1) passed onto renters and therefore 2) means higher incomes are required in the area with higher existing rents, which 3) contributes to the inertia and disinvestment in areas without said rents and incomes.  Minimum parking requirements are a barrier to growing south.
• In the local market, apartments are often built for singles in one-bedrooms and studios. However, families need two- and three-bedroom units which are difficult to finance due to parking requirements that are based on number of bedrooms.  Do the school age children of a family in a three-bedroom apartment need three parking spaces and the additional rent increases to construct that extra parking?


3. Have any studies been done on the elimination of parking minimums as it relates to reduction of single occupant vehicle trips?

PS: This article might help.


4. Can parking policy revisions be used to invoke transportation mode shift?

PS: This article shows the substantial mode shifts from parking cash out.

PK: Modal shift, such as meeting the city’s goals of reducing single-occupant vehicle trips from 88% of all trips to 62% over the next 25-30 years is challenging, necessary, and not impossible as proven by other cities seeing 1-2% shifts per annum.  Doing so requires an entirely new family of policies such as elimination of minimum parking requirements in order to allow for a new human-centric ecology to emerge.  This means increased density in order to increase the amenities, opportunities, and availability of transit within walking distance. One major issue we have locally is that parking is often less expensive than a transit pass even where parking costs are highest such as in downtown.  National analyses of central business district monthly parking costs show that parking in Dallas is very cheap, comparable to Memphis and Jacksonville, rather than being more expensive like our peer cities or even those vibrant downtowns we aspire to competing with.  Parking is cheap due to over-supply and transit is difficult to deliver efficiently due to sparse, low-density development.  Minimum parking requirements are partially to blame for both issues.


5. If you are thinking about livability, begin thinking about the disabled and people who can't walk a lot or handle public transport?

PS: Cities can maintain the requirements for disabled parking spaces.

PK: Dynamic demand-based pricing ensures there are available spaces on every block, ensuring short distances between available space and destinations.  Furthermore, the code can be written that if off-street parking is provided there must be a provision of some ADA parking. Lastly, we should also consider how disempowering car-dependence instilled through minimum parking requirements are to those with a variety of means and abilities.


6. Parking is difficult to find in many areas of Dallas.  Do you think this could be a reason companies prefer to relocate to the suburbs?

PS: If all companies preferred the suburbs, Dallas would look very different from what it does now.

PK: That is like saying, “nobody goes there anymore it is too crowded.”  If there is difficulty finding parking than the parking is likely too cheap and thus over-subscribed.  On the other hand, traffic congestion is much more severe on city streets in the suburbs.  Are companies choosing congestion?  In all likelihood, the reason for corporate relocations has to do with incentives provided by those municipalities.


7. Any emphasis on creating more housing to solve housing crisis via parking reforms? Or rather, should there be a higher emphasis on creating more housing via parking reforms?

PS: This article should help. 

PK: I would not say Dallas is in a full-blown housing crisis like California.  Instead, I would argue that Dallas is in a tax base crisis in that we have aging infrastructure and not enough tax base via density in order to maintain infrastructure and provide adequate services to residents. Given that the answer to our immediate problem, lack of tax base, is increased housing supply and greater choice in types of housing and neighborhoods would also help alleviate inflationary costs through rising demand.  To do so, we must eliminate barriers such as minimum parking requirements which would allow for housing to be delivered at a greater variety of price points


8. It’s predicted that by 2028 electrical cars with self-driving capability will be available for the masses. It may take another 10 years to fully phase in. Has there been studies to future planning and parking should the prediction be a reality?

PS: Here's an article that predicts that self-driving cars will use much less space for parking because they will use the space more efficiently.

PK: This prediction is more bullish on the capabilities of fully autonomous vehicles than am I.  What is fairly certain is that autonomous vehicles will not be a panacea.  Walkable, equitable, affordable, and sustainable places have been built before autonomous vehicles and that should be the goal regardless of technology.