Arkansas Town Breaks Ground By Eliminating Commercial Parking Minimums

In an effort to boost development downtown, leaders in Fayetteville, Arkansas (population ~80,000), last week eliminated minimum parking requirements for commercial properties citywide.

Fayetteville, Arkansas, leaders saw eliminating parking minimums as a way to encourage development. Photo: Wikipedia
Fayetteville leaders saw eliminating parking minimums as a way to encourage development. Photo: Wikipedia

Leading the push were planning commissioners like Tracy Hoskins, whom the Fayetteville Flyer described as a “longtime businessman and developer.” Hoskins argued, persuasively, that businesses are capable of deciding for themselves how many parking spaces to build and don’t need laws that require “day-after-Thanksgiving-sized lots.”

“I’ve always thought it was crazy to have minimum parking standards,” he told the Flyer. “Let the people that own, operate, and invest in those businesses determine what they need.”

Big parts of the downtown area are suffering from disinvestment, and the reforms were framed as a way to improve economic prospects. Another commissioner, Matt Hoffman, promoted it as a way to eliminate an unnecessary level of regulation and create a pro-business climate in the city.

The city’s requirements, for example, mandated one space per employee at daycare centers and two spaces per chair at a barber shop. Although the city’s attorney raised some concerns, commissioners held firm. And the decision doesn’t seem to be stirring up a backlash. Commenters at the Fayetteville Flyer were generally supportive.

Many U.S. cities have reformed parking rules in limited areas (Chicago recently loosened residential parking requirementso) in order to improve walkability and reduce construction costs.

Still, Fayetteville appears to be blazing a trail here. Parking policy guru Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking, said he believes Fayetteville is the first U.S. city to eliminate commercial minimum parking requirements citywide.

According to Shoup, Buffalo, New York, is considering a similar proposal, so this could be the start of something big.

20 thoughts on Arkansas Town Breaks Ground By Eliminating Commercial Parking Minimums

  1. How long before the state legislature steps in and passes a statewide minimum parking requirement? I joke, but that seems to be the go-to strategy whenever a Southern city does something even vaguely pro-urban or progressive these days.

  2. What say the developers lenders, and commercial tenants? They’re both up to their eyeballs in ITE parking engineering studies calling for X spots for every Y square foot of commercial space.

  3. Great news, but your headline really irritates me. Fayetteville is a city, not a town. It might be nice if Streetsblog would realize that there are places away from the coasts that are actually cities. Sometimes, Streetsblog’s writers come across as really condescending.

  4. There is a problem with this, and its twofold. First, drivers have the impression/belief whatever that they’re entitled to free parking. As a result, we get the second part of the problem, developers can now build insufficient parking and rely on people parking (often illegally) on free city property, side streets, etc. for parking. The real solution is to price parking, *all parking* in the city, so that people pay what the parking is worth on the market, and parking is build sustainable. If the price of parking goes high, people will choose other means of getting to their destinations. Just eliminating parking minimums, I believe is only part of the story.

  5. Population is 73,580. For us coastals, that probably doesn’t qualify as a city. But I get that, as the third-biggest city in Arkansas, it’s probably much more of a regional hub than a similar-sized place would be in the New York area.

  6. Fayetteville isn’t the first city to eliminate commercial parking minimums. Fort Collins, Colorado, eliminated commercial parking minimums citywide in the 80s. The effect has been lots sized for peak daily demand, not peak yearly demand.

  7. That’s new!

    There was a student housing complex in the “TOD” district that took advantage of the no-minimums rule to build roughly 800 beds with 200 parking spaces; the adjacent single-family neighborhood residents loudly complained, leading to the creation of residential parking minimums. I was unaware until now that commercial parking minimums were implemented.

    The Web Archive shows that parking minimums did not exist until this year.

  8. If there’s anything more depressing than the ubiquity of parking minimums, it’s seeing them reintroduced. It shows that it’s not just planners that are the issue.

  9. It’s absolutely true that commercial business will, on its own, build the amount of parking they think they need. The same is not always true of residential developers (there’s a landlord/tenant conflict here), which is why the residential situation is thornier.

  10. There should probably be a campaign to get rid of the commercial parking minimums, of the “why should our businesses subsidize residents of housing complexes parking in their lots” variety.

    The introduction of residential parking minimums is always, always, always, always due to existing residents parking on the street and acting as if they own the street parking. Until something is done about that one way or the other (either putting expensive meters on the street parking or *actually* giving the residents property rights to the street parking, complete with the associated increase in assessed value and property tax) you’ll continue to get demands for destructively high residential parking minimums.

    In parts of Chicago with metered street parking where you can sell or rent an off-street parking space *separately* from the housing which it’s attached to, the housing has gravitated towards much lower numbers of parking spaces, but they still build a fair amount of parking ’cause it’s profitable. This seems like a reasonable balance.

  11. Most older cities HAVE parking meters. Honestly, this should be expected. If street parking isn’t metered, you have a big problem. The only places it’s not worth metering are places where there’s a gross excess of it in the first place.

  12. Those studies are such garbage. The square feet of commercial space is not, in any way, proportional to the number of cars parked at a store, because it’s not proportional to the number of customers or how long they stay. I’ve seen holes in the wall that needed a lot of parking and huge warehouses which needed next to none.

  13. Some larger denser cities have parking meters in their core. When you look at most parking in the city, 99.9999% is still free. We’re talking malls, residential streets, etc. Most new developments are still in these area’s and subject to parking minimums. And this is exactly where you find this situation. This is my point, all parking should have a cost. If that cost can’t be high enough through market rates to pay for construction of the parking, it shouldn’t be built.

  14. People colloquially use “city” and “town” to mean “big place” and “small place,” respectively.

    Port Jervis, New York, population 8,828, is a city. The Town of Huntington, on Long Island, has a population of 203,264. Would it be “condescending” if Streetsblog wrote about Port Jervis and referred to it as a town?

    What makes something “actually [a] city”?

  15. Maybe it won’t happen, particularly since it was sold as a pro-business, get-the-government-off-my-back deregulation strategy. (As, quite frankly, it should be.)

  16. Good job Fayetteville! Elected officials and city planners need to read Shoup. He recommends eliminating all minimum off-street parking requirements, not just commercial, setting a price for curb parking that keeps a few spaces vacant on each block (a price that adjusts with demand), and returning parking revenue to the neighborhoods that generate it to pay for improvements.

    Shoup’s ideas work best when all three pieces are in place, but it’s good to see any progress towards that vision, even if it is just reducing parking requirements.

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