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Parking is Required to Diet [Part 2 of 3 ]

Sep 21, 2009

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

There are generally 3 options to building parking.
Build it underground, Build it on the ground or build it above the ground

So what are the solutions?

Unbundling Parking
We need to look at parking as a commodity and not as a birth right. That means giving the ability to buy units with or without a parking space. This also means that the parking can be spread out, around a community if it is conceived as a whole.

Let’s for example take a Market Tower which has a high parking ratio but a small footprint. It could have some of its parking under an adjacent, larger footprint and lower parking ratio non market housing development.

This leads to an overall lower development cost for the market tower and hence units become more affordable as well as increasing funding to the non market portion. This is particularly relevant near water sites where building underground can be prohibitively expensive.

This is however not without problems as airspace parcels, easements, integrated design etc. have to be identified and resolved early on.

Reducing amount

When considering the reduction of the amount of parking it is important not to miss the distinction between car usage and car ownership whereby urban households don’t use cars much but still do own one and hence require somewhere to put them. The impression from some that Transit oriented developments will eliminate at a stroke the need for cars is wrong. Whilst obviously it will reduce reliance on the car it will not eliminate it. We should be careful about not reducing too much.

In Vancouver’s False Creek South in the mid 1970’s the ratio was reduced to 0.5 per unit. This was such a disaster that the City had to build 3 parkades. (one very cost effectively at Alder Crossing into the Parkside bank, one under the playing field at the school which was hideously expensive but also needed for the marina and one behind Leg in Boot square which later and successfully incorporated market rental housing built in it’s front yard set back.).

The ratio now ie late 1970s developments is 1 per unit which allows the opportunity for rental of second car spaces and for visitors.

Mixed use developments have the benefit of allowing an amount of overlapping between residential and commercial parking. This means creating a parking pool and taking elements such as visitor parking out of the residential count and putting them in that pool. Residential and commercial parking can work very well together as their demands tend to be complementary

It’s simple math, if you require 100 residential, 20 visitor and 200 commercial stalls, the traditional total is 320.

If you were to allow some complementary overlap, the total actual built will be less. That total could be reduced to 260 by providing a pool of say 20 spaces which all uses could access and subsequently reducing the requirements of all three by 20.

This form of parking strategy does however require careful management in order to not provide misuse such as Park and Ride. Measures such as providing for validated or cheap first hour and progressively more expensive subsequent hours would discourage this.

[the next 2 solutions will be coming tomorrow – stay tuned!]