If there is an opportunity for the government to give more autonomy to businesses without negatively impacting others – we should take it. In a recent City of Edmonton survey, 60% said they would like an “Open Option Parking” which allows homeowners and businesses to choose the amount of parking that best meets their needs. People who use transit or active modes can opt for no parking on their property, while others who rely on cars for travel can choose the amount of onsite parking that works best for them. Businesses can also cater to their customers by choosing the amount of parking that suits their target market.
Urban Planning Committee and Edmontonians who participated in the survey were presented with three options.
Minimum Parking Requirements (our current system)
- The City determines a set number of parking spaces that must be provided. Typically, a high number of parking spaces are provided. Neighbourhoods are designed for driving and are less walkable. Homeowners and businesses have less choice in determining the amount of parking they provide.
Open Parking Requirements
- Open option parking: Businesses and homeowners can choose the amount of parking they provide on their property in response to market demand. There is a range of parking spaces provided, with some businesses choosing to provide more than others. There can be a range of neighbourhoods that support both walking and driving.
Maximum Parking Requirements
- Maximum parking requirements: the City sets an upper limit on the number of parking spaces that can be provided. Neighbourhoods are designed to be walkable and are less drivable. Businesses and homeowners have less choice as only a certain amount of parking stalls can be provided.
Parking is currently supplied in two main ways: onsite (ex: in a garage, parking lot, or parkade), and on-street parking. Municipalities, through zoning or land use bylaws, typically require a certain number of parking spaces to be provided onsite with new homes and businesses. Many of Edmonton’s existing onsite parking requirements were established in the 1970s and in recent years have required frequent adjustments to better support more compact communities, the adoption of greener transportation modes, and more vibrant commercial areas.
In a survey where over 4,000 Edmontonians participated, the below graphic breaks down preferences. In addition to the survey, we had several citizens register to speak to our Urban Planning Committee, the majority of which spoke in favour of open option parking.
I am supportive of option 2, the Open Parking system. This would mean the City imposes the least amount of regulation for on-site parking. As public transportation develops, young people become more reliant on car-sharing, and walkability becomes important – we need to make changes that reflect our current and future needs. Critical to note, City research shows that most on-site parking in Edmonton is not reaching optimal utilization. I think that if the free market decides how much parking is relevant for an area, instead of the government, then parking will be more effectively allocated. The open parking option approach also aligns with existing policies and emerging policy direction. Evolving Infill, Missing Middle, and affordable housing initiatives have highlighted the need for more responsive parking requirements to enable these types of developments.
This change will not happen overnight. Just as it took decades for our current parking system to fully integrate, it will take time to transition to a new model. As technology and our understanding of transportation evolve, we plan to adapt parking systems to meet the needs of Edmontonians. This bold decision to make parking more efficient, will start to become our new reality. With that said, this also will not stop any business from opening with a large amount of parking. For example, I would fully expect a big box or grocery store located outside the Henday will be certain to provide parking. Not providing that space would likely be a poor business decision but I also don’t think the City should be the one dictating how someone should set up their business.
Open option parking supports a range of policies in Edmonton’s Municipal Development Plan, including The Way We Grow, which promotes more walkable neighbourhoods by creating opportunities for more compact development that is walkable in scale. Smaller parking areas can also be easier to navigate for pedestrians and create more street-oriented buildings, supporting active modes of transportation. Businesses are able to choose locations or development styles which suit their customer’s needs while not facing regulatory barriers, helping to create a more vibrant local economy. Edmonton’s Energy Transition Strategy also explicitly calls for removing minimum parking requirements in commercial corridors and transit-oriented areas.
An open option approach aligns with the Big City Moves in The City Plan to foster a rebuildable city as redundant or underused parking spaces can be opened up to new development opportunities and activities. This approach also removes artificial constraints to allow the industry to adjust at its own speed to market demand, cultural changes, and technological disruptions, such as the expansion of the sharing economy and introduction of autonomous vehicles. Open option parking further supports affordable housing development by reducing costs and allowing flexibility for affordable housing providers to meet the parking needs of their residents.
One final consideration will be to ensure there is still accessible parking provided. If we proceed with the Open Option Parking, we will still require accessible parking. How that specifically gets addressed would be park of the implementation plan that will come forward on October 1, 2019. This plan will provide an option to make the change in one step across the entire city or to phase it in over time.
This is an issue where businesses, the public, and City Council seem to all agree. It makes sense to move forward with an open option parking model in Edmonton. Since the impacts will be gradual, I believe we can move forward and implement this across the city so that all businesses and homeowners can make their own decisions about how many parking spaces they need.