It’s seriously time to get rid of parking minimums

Parking minimums are rules and laws that require builders to include a certain amount of parking in their developments. They’re very common — especially in Utah — but here’s what they really do:

tax the poor to subsidize the rich while damaging the environment and the broader economy.

That quote comes from a fantastic article last week by Slate’s Matthew Yglesias.

Parking in downtown Salt Lake City

Parking in downtown Salt Lake City

The article goes on to argue that cities should require zero parking with new development. That doesn’t mean there won’t actually be any new parking, it just means that the market will determine how much of it people build.

To be clear, that’s not to say nobody should build new parking spaces. Cars are very useful, and if you want to own one, you need someplace to put it. A parking space is valuable, and so reasonable real-estate developers will typically want to feature parking spaces as part of a new development. But parking spaces are a building amenity like any other—granite countertops or spacious bathtubs or a fitness center or a roof deck—and so they’re something the real-estate market is capable of generating in the quantity that people demand. The current rules, mandating that all new construction come with more parking spaces than the market supports, create costly distortions throughout the city.

I’ve written about parking minimums before here, here and here, among other places. The point is that there is overwhelming evidence that parking minimums have a negative impact on cities — which Yglesias gets into in the article.

Also of note, Downtown SLC tweeted yesterday that 70 percent of downtown Salt Lake is parking. That boggles the mind.

So, look, I realize that a lot of people just look around and want to make sure they have parking, or their future tenants have parking. I realize that it’s hard to convince people that parking is both destructive and something we need to move away from.

But it’s not impossible. Not so long ago, I learned a lot about parking minimums just from a few Google searches. The information is out there, it just needs to reach more people.


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