Webinar recap: Parking reform for 21st century communities

By Chris McCahill

Parking reform is a growing priority for cities and towns across the U.S. This has important implications for transportation professionals, outlined in a recent webinar from SSTI, the Form-Based Code Institute, and Smart Growth America.

The webinar featured lessons from Hartford and Atlanta. Hartford undertook a complete zoning code rewrite in 2013, and they eventually moved toward a form-based code with no minimum parking requirements and some maximum allowances. Atlanta focused on key opportunities like older buildings and areas with frequent transit service and allowed more flexibility in meeting parking requirements through shared parking and the use of available street parking.

The motivation behind changes like these are often to spend less on building and maintaining underused parking, eliminate obstacles to infill development, and encourage more human-scale urban design. However, I also joined the webinar to discuss how the policy changes could benefit transportation planning and demand management. As an example, Hartford tripled its surface parking over 40 years (Figure 1), which helped fuel a citywide shift to driving.

Figure 1. Parking in downtown Hartford from 1960 (left) to 2000 (right). Source: Chris McCahill.

Underpriced, unregulated parking has had the same effect in cities across the country—making driving the default choice for many commuters and shoppers, even when they have access to high-quality transit or other travel options. Fixing the underlying policies that led to saturated and inefficient parking markets will be an important step toward managing traffic and building robust urban transportation systems. Learn more and watch a recording of the webinar at Smart Growth America.

Chris McCahill is the Deputy Director at SSTI.