Abolishing parking minimums

Yesterday, Edmonton became the first major Canadian city to eliminate minimum parking requirements for any new development.

In Toronto, developers are required to provide one parking spot per unit for any new residential or mixed use building. These are rarely provided however, as the City is typically amenable to a lower parking count if requested through a Zoning By-law Amendment (rezoning) application or Committee of Adjustment hearing. This is especially true for any site that is well-served by transit. It’s not uncommon to see a ratio of 0.2 parking spots per unit downtown and 0.3 parking spots per unit in midtown.

Still, the requirement is on the books, and any variance requires City approval, at a cost of time, money, and predictability.

The case for eliminating these requirements has been building for some time, and many American cities, including Buffalo, Houston, Minneapolis, and San Francisco, have already made the change. Putting the economic, environmental, and health concerns to the side, it’s simply the case that developers are better positioned to determine demand for parking than the City.

It’s time for Toronto to get with the program.

One cool thing about this deregulatory proposal is that it’s one that finally has a critical mass of support behind it. There’s a broad coalition of interest and pressure groups that would welcome the change, including cyclists, environmentalists, and urbanists. You just need somebody to organize them all to get this done.

With a competent operator building public support and lobbying City Council and Planning, I believe that we could see a successful vote to eliminate parking requirements from our Zoning By-law within 2-3 years.