April 25, 2019 Elizabeth Ward

Parking Updates and Why They Matter

It’s 2019. Does your city still have minimum parking requirements? So starts a recent Strong Towns post, and while Atlanta does still have minimum parking requirements, we’ve also recently implemented some changes that will hopefully begin to free us from our parking plagued past.

We’ve talked extensively in previous posts about the problems of parking requirements. Minimum parking requirements are known to induce driving, decrease affordability and decrease walkability. The average cost to build a surface parking space is between $5,000 and $15,000, and structured parking is estimated between $25,000 and $50,000 per space. Those costs are not eaten by the developer, they are passed on to the end user. Buying a condo? You’re paying for parking requirements. Renting an apartment? You’re paying for parking requirements. Looking for an office or retail space? You’re paying for parking requirements. Don’t drive? Doesn’t matter, you’re paying for parking requirements if they exist. Beyond cost, it’s important to understand what parking requirements physically look like when implemented. They look…suburban.

It’s important to understand what parking requirements (in this case, Atlanta’s requirements) physically look like on a site. Are parking spaces more productive than people spaces?

At the beginning of this year, the City of Atlanta adopted a second round of zoning “quick fixes” – the full legislation can be found here. It’s packed with a few seriously awesome updates, but some of our favorite parking-related changes are outlined below:

  1. On-street parking now counts towards minimum parking requirements
    • Allowing on-street parking spaces to count towards parking minimums means some smaller properties may not even need to provide off-street parking. This is big! We’re fans of on-street parking spaces because they are efficient, they help slow traffic, and they make use of leftover street space that usually already exists.
  2. No parking requirements for buildings built before 1965 (except for, ironically, bars larger than 1200 SF)
    • This. Is. Huge! Buildings built before 1965 were not designed to meet today’s parking standards, and trying to bring them into conformance just doesn’t work. As a firm that specializes in adaptive reuse, we have had to do it all: parking variances, shared off-site parking agreements, shared on-site parking agreements, converting a portion of the building to parking, and worst of all – tearing down a portion of the building to provide parking. We are so excited for this redevelopment barrier to be removed, and hope that it helps save more of our historic buildings!
  3. No minimum parking requirements for lots within ½ mile of high capacity transit (MARTA and the streetcar, for now)
    • Yes. Yes. Yes. Buildings near transit do not need the same amount of parking as buildings in less walkable places. Not everyone needs to or wants to drive. Providing less parking may even encourage people to take transit. One can hope.
  4. Reductions of on-site parking with shared parking agreements are now allowed in more places.
    • Shared parking is a great way to minimize costly and underused parking lots, and maximize efficient use of land and resources. Previously, shared parking was only allowed in certain zoning districts. While the shared parking agreement process is not perfect, we hope this change will encourage more places to take advantage of the benefits of shared parking.
  5. Parking maximums for the Beltline Overlay District and within ½ mile of high capacity transit
    • While we aren’t fans of parking minimums, we are (cautiously optimistic) fans of parking maximums. The Beltline Overlay District and the MARTA corridor covers some of our most walkable neighborhoods, which don’t need to be bloated with unnecessary parking and the subsequent traffic that overparking brings.

While we are still advocating for a full elimination of parking requirements in Atlanta, we are thankful for these small steps forward in the meantime. And, because I’m sure it needs to be said, we aren’t against parking. The need for parking in a city like Atlanta isn’t going to go away any time soon. We are just against requiring parking. If you still have doubts about getting rid of minimum parking requirements, the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) – the very people who brought us parking minimums in the first place –  have officially recommended an elimination of mandatory minimums to “give people more say over how they live their lives and use their property.” Boom.

Check back soon for a post on all of the parking we’ve saved from Atlanta by way of variances and shared parking agreements. Hint: it’s a lot. A parking lot. Ha..ha..ha.

Let's Make Our Cities Better Places


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