In a policy paper release on September 26th, the Obama Administration demonstrated its support for policies that support transit oriented development, and in particular, the need to reduce parking requirements in urban areas. The paper also supports urban policies such as increasing densities and encouraging local governments to tax vacant lands at higher rates to promote redevelopment.

For advocates of transit oriented development and supporters of vibrant urban living, the policy paper is music to street-parkingtheir ears.  The report notes that “Parking requirements generally impose an undue burden on housing development, particularly for transit-oriented or affordable housing.”  When transit-oriented developments are intended to help reduce automobile dependence, parking requirements can undermine that goal by inducing new residents to drive, thereby counteracting city goals for increased use of public transit, walking
and biking.”

Parking, or reducing minimum parking requirements, has fostered debates for decades.  During the 1970s, 80s and 90s, many local government zoning policies were actually increasing their minimum parking space requirements.  The auto centric suburbs, where car ownership was ballooning, seemed to be driving parking policies in the more urban areas.  In urban areas, the requirement to provide more parking drove up construction costs, and thus put a strain on affordable housing.

Urban and transit oriented development advocates have long argued the need to reduce parking to reduce the dependence on driving.  Many urban areas, like Washington, DC, have already adopted similar policies.  The overall impact that such a policy paper has on local governments isn’t always direct, but such a policy stance by an administration can drive how government programs operate, prioritize and funds grant programs and projects.

Stay tuned.