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Parking is Required to Diet [Part 1]

Sep 18, 2009

by JP Thornton, VIA’s Director of Practice and Director of Mixed-Use + Major Projects

Cars, traffic, parking, gridlock all major concerns of the time and are increasing in intensity, profile and concern. Many people have put their minds to possible solutions.


The Congestion charge in London (and now also Stockholm) was introduced to limit the amount of traffic with in the centre of a City not designed for modern vehicular demands. Although the direction behind this is admirable it cannot be undertaken in isolation. Business drivers whom this was largely targeted simply consider it a cost of doing business; large companies can cover the costs of their workers travel by increasing fees. To be fully successful, huge investments into public transit are required otherwise inadequate transportation will limit office development, job creation, house building as well as the efficiency of the labour market in or around the congestion zone.

In some major Japanese Cities, before you are allowed to purchase a car, you have to prove that you do in fact actually have somewhere to park it.

These are both reactionary measures put in place to attempt to stem the growing congestion that threatens to grind Cities to a halt. But what can we do to be proactive in terms of development?

Higher densities imply more people, therefore more cars and hence parking. Or does it???


Actually increasing densities in major urban centres is the beginning of the solution along with suitable and complementary transit infrastructure. Taking the need away from the dependence on the car rather than making the actual driving more difficult is perhaps a more positive approach.

The right building in the wrong place is the wrong building. So we live in the City and we walk to work, great, but if every weekend we have to drive to the box stores or malls surrounded by acres of parking to do our shopping then these suburban buildings, no matter how environmentally correct, are the wrong buildings.


The City of Vancouver and Costco should be applauded for developing one of the first “downtown box stores” although I admit that I am yet to understand how customers manage to carry their 76 rolls of toilet paper and 50 pound bags of rice home.

Urban environments providing homes, shopping, transportation and recreational facilities on your doorstep where it is as quick to walk to the store as it is to walk to your car in the parkade is an excellent step in the right direction.

Parking drives development, Parking ratios and stall sizes. Almost every municipality has its own standards in both ratio and sizes. The calculations are complex and to be honest quite dull so the details are not going to be discussed here. Some very successful developments would not have happened if reductions in parking were not negotiated and in order to negotiate, alternatives to these standards need to be identified. The following points need to be understood first so that we can proactively look at the issue of parking provision and ways to mitigate impact.

  • It is a Constant state of balance – Developers need to build sufficient parking to satisfy potential purchasers and the City but do not wish to build more that is required due to the cost.
  • The City wishes to see adequate provision for parking but generally does not wish to see it.
  • Parking is expensive to build. Generally preferred to be “out of site” means building underground. Which in some cases can cost up to $25k per stall.

Coming up next week: 3 options to building parking