Two Stories of Towns Making Progress on Parking Minimum Removals

For Black Friday Parking this year, I wanted to follow up with some of the people who submitted updates to our Parking Minimum Removals Map (on the right), particularly those whose towns had seen significant shifts during the last year. (If you haven’t had a chance to submit or update information on the map, there’s still time. Just fill out this short form and we’ll get your data on the map.)

Today, I’ve got two stories for you from Canada and Indiana that show how decreases in parking minimums can be achieved and gives us an idea of the results these decreases have.

High River, Canada

My first conversation was with Jackson Wiebe, interim planner for the Town of High River, Alberta. He explained that changes to the local parking codes were precipitated by a natural disaster: “In 2013, we had a huge flood event that affected many of our small towns. As a result of that, a lot of our municipalities got a chance to rebuild. There was quite a bit of provincial money up for grabs to rebuild.”

As High River contemplated their plan for rebuilding, they kept in mind their town’s motto: “High River is a people-first community where people live, work, play and invest,” Wiebe explained. “We take that very seriously in our town.”

In 2015, the town made several amendments to its land-use bylaws including the removal of parking minimums in its downtown core.  The downtown core went from 135 on-street parking spaces to 70—a shift from angle to limited parallel parking (although all existing handicap parking spaces were preserved). High River also beefed up its requirements for walkability and bike parking.

4th Avenue in High River, June 2009 (from  Google Streetview )

4th Avenue in High River, June 2009 (from Google Streetview)

4th Avenue in High River, May 2016 (from   Google Streetview  )

4th Avenue in High River, May 2016 (from Google Streetview)

The result? A new farmers market downtown, patio space for local businesses and an overall increase in walkability and bikeability for High River visitors and residents.

I asked Wiebe if the town experienced any pushback as a result of the change. “We’re still hearing complaints,” he said honestly. “It’s been interesting to see who voices concern or support.” At first, almost everyone was opposed to the changes, but as they saw the wider, more attractive sidewalks coming in, the restaurants and cafes supported the new bylaws.

“High traffic businesses like doctor’s offices were and are still against it,” Wiebe said. However, Wiebe says no businesses have left the downtown, suggesting that anger over the change in parking may be mostly talk.

In addition to this change in High River’s central district, the town is also rewriting its entire land use bylaw. The rewrite is filled with language that limits or removes parking requirements for all zoning types, while prioritizing bike and walk access. This is expected to be adopted early in the new year. High River is certainly staying true to its “people-first” commitment and taking government out of the business of requiring parking.

“Developers can put in as much parking as they want,” Wiebe explained. “We’re trying to leave it to market demand. If you think you can sell it with no parking, go for it.”

Indianapolis, IN

Indianapolis spent the last several years rewriting its entire zoning code, which hadn’t been updated in decades. The result, which officially took effect in April 2016, is several notable changes, including a reduction in parking minimums. I spoke with Strong Towns member, Jim Hodapp, an Indianapolis resident, to learn more about what happened.

Parking minimums for a variety of uses were decreased in Indianapolis including for single-family, multifamily buildings and commercial buildings, and in some cases, bike parking requirements were added. Parking maximums were also added for assisted living facilities, daycare centers, high schools and more.

“They also have a new mixed use zoning area that they didn’t have before,” Hodapp explained. “In that designation, if there is a transit stop or you put in enough bike parking spaces, you can get your parking requirements down to zero.”

I asked Hodapp if he thought the changes to Indianapolis’ zoning code were a good sign. “Local people that follow Strong Towns wanted some more,” he responded, “but for Indy it was a big step forward.”

The change only went into effect in April of this year, so the real impact remains to be seen, but this is a promising step.

(All images from Google Maps)

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