At the May 7th, 2019, Urban Planning Committee meeting the following motion was passed:
That Administration advance the implementation of Open Option Parking and return with a report to Committee, including:
- A comprehensive review of on-street parking implications
- Predictors of all types of parking demand, and how these predictors affect on-site demand
- Implementation scenarios, including draft bylaw amendments, that consider one-step implementation and/or phased approach and different zoning categories, including the impact on each
With Open Option Parking, businesses and homeowners can choose the amount of parking they provide on their property in response to market demand.
City Administration previously reported that Edmonton has a large over-supply of parking throughout the city. Optimal parking utilization is set at 90%. However, Edmonton’s utilization sits at 40-50%. In commercial space, maximum observed usage, only 39% of parking spaces were being used which translates to an average of 19,000 parking spaces as open.
In a blog post by Ashley Salvador from YEG Garden Suites, “supposing an average cost of $10,000 a stall, that is close to $200 million dollars wasted.”
Expressed in this blog post as well, “Beyond the cost of building parking ($5,000 – $50,000/stall), the opportunity cost of using land for parking, as opposed to productive uses, is substantial. Over-supplying parking represents billions of dollars lost in unproductive economic development.”
We heard an example by an affordable housing provider where a 50 unit building of permanent supportive housing was required to spend $1 million dollar on an underground parkade even though almost none of the residents own a vehicle. That extra million dollars could have built additional units to help address our existing housing crisis instead of creating an empty underground parkade.
Many municipalities have eliminated parking minimums in at least one area of the city and other cities are considering eliminating parking minimums throughout the entire city. One of the cities that has already eliminated parking minimums is Buffalo. Back in 2016, a zoning ordinance was approved by their City Council called “The Green Code” that crafted a new approach to sustainable urban planning. The Green Code, completely removed minimum parking requirements, making Buffalo the largest US city to abandon parking requirements and let the market determine how much parking should be provided for new development.
There are a number of reasons that I have been supportive of the Open Option Parking.
The first reason is that I believe in a situation like this, the free market is actually the best mechanism to address this particular issue. It would be a bad decision by a home builder outside the Henday to build a single family home without a garage. Many of our newer communities were built without a lot of neighbourhood businesses and have larger town centres where all the businesses are in one location and often anchored by a grocery store. Therefore many homes aren’t built within a close walking distance which means many people moving into these communities will have at least one car in order to access those services. Removing a parking requirement will not result in an elimination of parking because the homes would not sell.
But as we learned in yesterday’s discussion, one of the reasons these newer communities are lacking neighbourhood commercial that is within a short walk. The current parking requirements can create significant challenges when wanting to build a small coffee shop, yoga studio, office for a doctor/dentist, etc. This is because they need an excess of parking which limits the space that developers can use to build the commercial space.
Many people know that I live in the community of Jasper Park right on 156th Street. I’m fortunate that my doctor, dentist, bank, library, and chiropractor are all within a 10 minute walk of my home. I also have a school, local bakery (Bon Ton), grocery store, pharmacy, coffee shop, convenience store, and many other amenities within the same 10 minute walk. I love that I don’t have to rely on my car to access many of the basic services we all need. Now I still like to visit big box stores for some of my groceries but the fact is that I have options close to me so I’m not required to drive when I forgot to grab milk.
A great point raised by one of our speakers at yesterday’s meeting was that our current parking rules actually prevent an area like Whyte Ave to be recreated in other parts of the city. I understand that not every community should look just like Whyte Ave. I chose to live where I do because I wasn’t looking for that specific environment but I still wanted to live in a space where I was in close proximity to many services. And no matter what community I’m in, I do hear from many people about that desire to have similar access to services.
Another reason I have supported this change is because it will be a very gradual change. Just as it took decades to develop a city that requires many of us to own a car, it will take decades for a change like this to have a measurable impact in our communities. I understand that there may be fear that making a change like this will mean that there will never be any on-street parking in front of your home.As noted above, redevelopment is a gradual process that happens over time. Even if every new development in a mature neighbourhood was built without parking, which wouldn’t happen anyways due to market demand, it would take decades for most communities to reach a point where we would have constrained on-street parking.
Even if we ran into a situation where on-street parking started to become a concern, our new ePark system allows us to create parking management programs to ensure local residents still have access to parking on-street for themselves and visitors. We already have some programs in certain areas (ex: West Meadowlark beside the hospital) and the ePark system allows for greater flexibility when creating a new program. But I would encourage you to take a walk around your community to fully understand how much parking currently exists.
I live in a 63 unit condo building that has an underground parking that is never full. Around 20% of the resident parking stalls at the back of my building are utilized even though all stalls were purchased by residents. There are usually 5 or 6 people who for any number of reasons, do not park underground or at the back of the building but will instead park on the street. Even with those 5 or 6 vehicles on the street, there is still on-street parking available at all times of day.
I appreciate that there are some select areas where parking is constrained. For example, we know in communities like Oliver that parking on the street is often challenging. There is no guarantee that you will find a spot right in front of your home. That can also happen on the street close to main streets. We know that just off 124th Street, parking can be a challenge because visitors or staff of the businesses may choose to park on the street. But considering the vibrancy of a street like that, we should use other tools, like our ePark system, to address on-street parking concerns rather than restricting areas like that.
I think many of us would love to see Stony Plain Road reach a level of vibrancy that we see on some of our other Main Streets. As we move in that direction, it likely will mean that parking will become a bit more challenging. For some people, if it becomes too challenging to park, they will choose not to visit at all. For others, they will either be willing to park a bit further away or they will take another mode of transportation to access that area. A previous study on Whyte Avenue showed that around two-thirds of people who shop on Whyte Ave use a mode of transportation other than their car. At the same time, a big box hardware store will almost always have easy access to parking because using another mode of transportation doesn’t make a lot of sense.
A final reason relates to emerging technology. I’ve previously written about autonomous vehicles and the impact they will have on the way we move throughout the city. As most companies are pursuing a fleet-based model, the need for parking is going to be reduced over time. I won’t repeat much of what I’ve written before but if you are interested in my thoughts on that, please visit this link.
There are three implementation scenarios that Edmonton has looked at to achieve Open Option Parking. (1) Full implementation of Open Option Parking (2) Phased Approach to Open Option Parking (3) Zone-based parking minimums.
Scenario One: Full implementation of Open Option Parking
A one-step approach to implementing Open Option Parking that removes on-site minimum parking requirements and strengthens requirements for the size and layout of parking spaces and the design and landscaping of parking lots.
The one-step implementation is supported by the data analysis, creates administrative efficiencies during the development review process and keeps regulations simple and predictable.
Scenario Two: Phased approach to Open Option Parking
A multi-step approach that transitions to full implementation of Open Option Parking over a defined period of time, based on established milestones. Future phases of this approach will incrementally expand the geographic areas for Open Option parking until it is fully implemented across the city.
While a phased approach may help to manage some of the risks associated with change, it creates additional complexity, uncertainty and inequity among Edmontonians.
Scenario Three: Zone-based parking minimums
This scenario considers parking requirements alongside regulations within a particular zone (e.g., residential, commercial, or industrial). This approach focuses on the overall purpose of the zone rather than the use of a particular building.
While this approach has the potential to support more balanced site planning, it will require additional research, analysis and engagement. It results in a one-size-fits-most approach to parking regulation that suffers from similar limitations as the City’s existing parking requirements.
Scenario One is covered by the current budget while implementing Scenarios Two or Three would require an analysis of work and resources to determine budget needs.
The City of Edmonton will proceed with Scenario One; this scenario improves choice for Edmontonians, reduces barriers to economic development, supports climate resilience, and has the potential to transform Edmonton’s urban form through gradual, incremental change toward a more compact, urban environment. One-step implementation creates efficiencies and keeps regulations simple and predictable. Transformative change always comes with risk but can deliver significant long term benefits.
As a next step, to support the implementation of Scenario One, the City will prepare a Charter Bylaw to implement Scenario One – Full Open Option Parking and return to City Council Public Hearing in the third quarter of 2020.
Written by A. Knack and R. Maggay