Minneapolis Moves to Eliminate Mandatory Parking

Photo: Minneapolis 2040
Photo: Minneapolis 2040

The Minneapolis City Council has approved a bold plan that would dramatically increase walkability and other hallmarks of urban living by eliminating mandatory parking that has encouraged car ownership for years.

As part of a larger rezoning that will erase decades of racially discriminatory housing policy, the plan will eliminate off-street parking minimums throughout the city — a reform that would make Minneapolis the third major U.S. city to eliminate such requirements, which are a hidden subsidy for drivers.

A goal of the so-called Minneapolis 2040 plan [PDF] is housing and transportation policy that reduces emissions by 80 percent by 2050. To achieve that, the city hopes to reduce the number of miles driven locally 40 percent.

“That drives us to making every investment that we can on the transportation side to reduce vehicle miles traveled,” Robin Hutcheson, the city’s director of Public Works, told Streetsblog. “We want to be able to develop the city and have developers be successful without having to overbuild on parking, which has happened historically in all cities.

The elimination of mandatory minimum parking follows similar efforts in Buffalo and Hartford, Conn. The Minneapolis plan also calls for discouraging the construction of surface parking lots, and prohibits new gas stations or drive-throughs citywide.

Auto-oriented land uses — such as auto repair shops — will no longer be allowed near Metro stations.

Most of the discussion of the plan has focused on a rezoning that will allow triplex apartments in every neighborhood — even those formerly zoned only for single family houses, a zoning that exacerbated segregation and skewed the housing market. And there’ll be increased density and even stricter parking restrictions near transit stations.

The Minneapolis effort demonstrates that the issues of housing prices and parking are inexorably linked — and must be addressed together if cities want to be more walkable, more integrated and more affordable. Some studies have shown that mandatory parking spaces can add as much as 20 percent to the cost of an apartment.

“Parking minimums and parking ramps harm our efforts at achieving the elimination of racial disparities, addressing climate change and providing affordable housing,” Janne Flisrand, a volunteer and co-founder of the advocacy group Neighbors for More Neighbors, told Streetsblog.

The comprehensive plan doesn’t make the zoning change — eliminating parking minimums — official. But the law requires that the city’s zoning code match the comprehensive plan. Flisrand is confident that City Council will follow through on the zoning changes. The process of changing the zoning laws to align with the plan will take place over the coming year.

“We envision a future where we all find affordable and secure homes in the neighborhood where we choose,” Flisrand said.

19 thoughts on Minneapolis Moves to Eliminate Mandatory Parking

  1. Love this. Planning codes should regulate things that a buyer/renter can’t assess themselves, such as insulation, double glazing, and structural safety. Let buyers choose whether to spend $50-100,000 on a car park.

  2. That’s easy to say, but I think you need to show that in the data, right? Housing is a competitive market, and developers can sell a unit with more amenities at a higher rate.

    If all costs were passed on to renters, wouldn’t an apartment with 2 parking spaces cost the same to rent as a unit with 1? If we agree that, in the real world, they don’t, why wouldn’t that fact also apply for apartments with 1 vs 0 parking spaces?

  3. The renter eats the additional cost. Why should the govt mandate minimum car parking but not minimum bedrooms?

  4. Making it difficult for city dwellers to park so they give up their cars FALSE assume they don’t need to drive outward to destinations well beyond city transit routes. That’s nuts.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  5. So? If a city dweller wants to drive out to the sticks, they are absolutely free to purchase a parking spot. Why force the folks who don’t have cars to subsidize those who do?

  6. I have relatives who lived in a condo in Silver Spring, MD. The parking places were a paid option – seems like a good compromise.
    My whole point is that totally carless residents are not common.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  7. They are not common if the cities are designed around cars. The more cities will be designed to be carless, the less cars you’ll see.

    I do live in an urban area of 450k inhabitants(Montpellier, Hérault, France), where transit is transporting 388k people per day – and is going on in improving its network with yet another tram line to come.

    This did not come quickly, it’s been an effort since 1974; but it has reached a level where one can live without a car easily. There are exactly 2 shops for which I still need my car(the gardening shop and one of the organic supermarkets), all the rest I can cover through tramway & bus – be it work, administration, schools, healthcare, sports, culture, and even nearby seaside resorts.

    In my street are 4 buildings with 20+ flats each, plus a kindergarten/primary school. And exactly 6 parking spots outside. That’s not always enough, but less and less people are riding car to go there. It’s a long-term process, but it works.

  8. I understand how cities can be designed so transit is good enough for most commuting, shopping, and entertainment needs. Does that mean the residents very rarely travel beyond the city to places where a car is the only practical method?

    My favorite hamburger place is 15 miles from my house at an exit to the Interstate – a place transit would never serve. There are three small towns that are 12 to 25 miles away we visit for restaurants, theater, and other reasons – and transit solutions do not exist. A close friend lives 60 miles away and we either visit there or meet at a restaurant about half way between us. Those trips would not be possible by transit.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  9. It means one can perfectly live without a car – even if for some purposes, they are very practical.

    Honestly, if those 2 shops were linked by tram or bus, our only use for my car would be holidays – and it would then be far more cost-effective for us to lease cars for those specific moments. And for sure, as a family, we only need one single car.

  10. I think having some areas like the one you describe is great. For people that desire that lifestyle, it will work really well. Others with different needs or desires will use cars frequently enough that ownership is the only practical solution.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  11. That’s your solution? “Agree with everything or live elsewhere”. How tolerant of you. So “progressive”.

  12. Exactly! This is what used to be called a free market. The buyers and builders should be able to decide whether or not they want to pay for parking and the buyer or renter can decide for themselves whether they want the convenince or price of a car. Why should some politicans in city hall get to call these shots. In a free market the choices for all are maximized and all the risk and rewards are assumed by the buyers and sellers. Corruption is also lessened in free markets because it keeps politicians for favoring certain people, businesses or property owners over others in exchange for votes, special rules and exceptions or other forms of payback.

    A good example of where this has worked out well is Houston. It came from nowhere to the nations third largest metro area by having no such mandates and no zoning.

    Furthermore, a free market allows for other solutions an choices to fit consumer’s infinitely varied needs and wants with infinite and less costly transportation solutions like ride share, short term car rental companies. and even with bike and scooter rentals.

  13. If developers don’t pay for the parking addition, they should be required to use that money to financially support Metro Transit. The purpose of the parking requirement is so they don’t mess up the intersections by not planning for transit infrastructure to support more people. If not cars, buses and bike infrastructure STILL need money.

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