It's Time to End Parking Minimums In Edmonton

Over the past three years, we've listened to countless Edmontonian’s garden suite stories. One thing that has repeatedly stood out as a barrier to development are the City’s parking requirements, which mandate the minimums number of stalls that must be provided on a property. Under the current regulations, even if you don't own a car, you must build parking. But...this might be changing.

How Par(king) became, well...king.

Parking minimums were introduced in cities across North America after WW2. As rates of car-ownership increased, cities decided that the best way to deal with this issue was to require every homeowner, business, and developer to include parking stalls on their property.

Parking minimums remained popular for several decades, however, over the past 10 years, the negative consequences of mandatory parking minimums have been brought to the fore and cities across Canada and the United States are reducing and removing them. The City of Edmonton is in the midst of this very conversation.

On January 28th, 2020, the City of Edmonton’s Urban Planning Committee will be debating the removal of Edmonton’s longstanding and outdated parking minimums. If you would like to support the removal of parking minimums city-wide by sending a letter to council, or by speaking at Urban Planning Committee, please let us know. Support is needed on this item & your stories & experiences are critical.

Why support the removal of parking minimums?

Removing parking minimums allows the market to course correct after decades of auto-dominant planning regulations. Mandating off-street minimums has contributed to a sprawling road network and urban form. This has resulted in high costs to the city and taxpayers, high emissions, poor health outcomes, more traffic, and ultimately less vibrant urban areas.

There is little risk in removing parking minimums, and much to gain. City administration reports that Edmonton has a significant over-supply of parking across the entire city. While optimal parking utilization is 90% across the city, Edmonton sits at 40-50% at peak. Making use of this surplus, cutting red tape, and allowing the market to adjust to an efficient level of supply will result in economic gains for the city as a whole.

Areas in red show space allocated to parking in different locations in Edmonton. From top left to bottom right: mature neighbourhood, Strathcona, Downtown, developing neighbourhood/suburb.

The report finds a similar over-supply in commercial space where “at maximum observed usage (observed), only 39% of those spaces are being used, meaning that on average over 19,000 parking spaces in commercial sites observed are open”. Supposing an average cost of $10,000 a stall, that is close to $200 million dollars wasted, due to government regulation.

Note that removing minimums does not mean that no parking will be provided; it means that businesses, developers, and homeowners can build the right amount of parking for an area. This is evident in studies done on parking supply after minimums were removed. In Seattle, for example, 70% of developments with no parking minimums still provided parking over an eight year period.

It is also critical to remember that the impact of eliminating off-street minimums will take place over the course of several decades, making it an extremely slow and incremental change.