Why Legislatures Across the US Are Challenging Parking Mandates More Than Ever Before
Parking reform is gaining momentum across the U.S. Here are a few recent victories.
12:01 AM EDT on July 27, 2023
Editor's note: a version of this article originally appeared on Sightline Institute and is republished with permission.
In the 2023 legislative session, more than a dozen US states have proposed legislation to reduce or eliminate parking minimums.
“It’s exciting,” said Tony Jordan, founder of the national Parking Reform Network, which connects advocates and policymakers with resources. To Jordan, the number of state bills introduced signal a quietly growing number of people working on the issue. “It’s becoming very popular.”
For decades, nearly every town across North America has required all new homes and businesses to have a pre-determined number of parking spaces. But as widespread housing shortages and empty office buildings multiply, states are increasingly taking up the effort to roll back parking mandates instead of waiting for cities to adopt new codes one by one. Last year, Oregon and California both adopted policies that struck down parking mandates at the state level.
Widespread parking reform proposals have yet to be as successful in other states, but the number of bills popping up in states across the political spectrum illustrates the movement’s growing influence.
Reducing parking minimums is most commonly found as one part of a larger reform package to increase housing supply, like in Colorado’s comprehensive More Housing Now bill. Legislators from multiple states, though, have begun to address parking minimums directly with simple bills only a few pages long. In Oklahoma, a bill was introduced that would have ended parking minimums outright. Washington attempted to eliminate mandatory parking near frequent transit stations. Another transit-oriented measure in New Jersey would cut parking minimums near transit in half; that bill is still alive, having passed the state senate in May.
Here are a few more recent victories:
Standalone parking bills
Arizona HB 2259
To prohibit parking mandates statewide for all affordable housing. Failed in committee. (Did not pass)
Maryland HB 819
To remove parking minimums within ¼-mile of all existing or planned Metro or Purple Line transit stations, in anticipation of a new 16–mile light rail line in the DC area. Passed the House unanimously, but the Senate dropped the bill after Montgomery County (the only jurisdiction affected) pledged to introduce a similar measure at the local level. (Did not pass)
To reduce local parking mandates by 20, 30, or 50 percent based on proximity to a transit station. Passed the Senate 21-12 in May, now in House committee. (Pending)
Oklahoma S 246
To prohibit local governments from imposing minimum parking requirements. Failed in committee. (Did not pass)
To eliminate parking minimums within a half–mile of frequent transit. Failed in committee. (Did not pass)
Parking reformers’ biggest 2023 wins so far have come in Vermont and Montana. Despite very different political majorities, both states legalized more housing while capping local parking mandates at one parking space per home through much of the state. Other successful housing supply bills, like ones that legalized accessory dwelling units, included pre-emptions of parking requirements.
Parking reform in abundant housing policies
Arizona SB 1117
Part of a larger state zoning reform, this bill aimed to eliminate parking mandates for residentially zoned areas in cities with more than 30,000 residents. After this bill failed a Senate vote, a very similar provision was briefly amended into another zoning reform bill, HB 2536, which also failed in the Senate. (Did not pass)
Arizona HB 2272
To require cities with over 75,000 residents to adopt a housing plan and 7 of 13 zoning reforms; eliminating parking minimums was one of them. Failed in committee. (Did not pass)
Part of the comprehensive 150+ page More Housing Now bill. To eliminate parking minimums for multifamily housing near transit stations and for accessory dwelling units, and middle housing types. Passed the House, failed in Senate. (Did not pass)
Maine HP 1071
To establish a new state program to assist in redevelopment of commercial corridors. Eliminating parking minimums, in addition to other zoning changes, would have been required for project areas. Failed in committee. (Did not pass)
Part of a broad housing supply proposal to eliminate parking minimums for multifamily housing within ½-mile of transit stations. Caps parking minimums for accessory dwelling units at 1 space per home, with driveway tandem parking allowed. Vacant commercial properties to be free from parking mandates if being converted to housing, if 20 percent of the residential space is dedicated to affordable housing. Hearingscheduled for July 26, 2023. (Pending)
Montana SB 245
Originally proposed with no parking requirements, this bill that legalized multifamily housing in commercial areas ultimately set a statewide cap on parking minimums: 1parking space per home in cities with over 5,000 residents. (Passed)
Montana SB 528
Legalized 1 accessory dwelling per lot, no parking required. (Passed)
Montana SB 382
The Montana Land Use Planning Act requires local governments to adopt at least 5 zoning reforms from a list of 14, one of which is to eliminate or reduce parking requirements to 1 space per unit. (Passed)
To prohibit local governments from imposing parking mandates, along with other exclusionary zoning practices. Failed in committee. (Did not pass)
New York A6670
This transit–oriented development bill would have restricted local governments from regulations that “effectively prevent the construction” of buildings, including parking requirements. Failed in committee. (Did not pass)
North Carolina HB 409
To legalize accessory dwelling units. Local parking requirements may not apply. Passed the House 106-7, now in Senate committee. (Pending)
Rhode Island S 1037
Capped local parking minimums at 1 parking space per home for low- to moderate-income housing, up to two bedrooms. (Passed)
To ease regulatory barriers for small lots (under 4,000 square feet), local parking mandates to be capped at 1 parking space per lot, and no covered parking can berequired. Would apply to cities over 85,000 residents. Passed out of the Senate, but did not advance to a House vote. (Did not pass)
This omnibus housing supply bill capped parking minimums at 1 space per dwelling in areas served by water and sewer infrastructure. Outside of those areas, 1.5 parking spaces per home can be required for multifamily buildings under certain conditions.(Passed)
This House version of a housing supply bill would have set a statewide zoning standard at 1 per dwelling. Failed in committee. (Did not pass)
Washington HB 1337
Eliminated parking minimums for accessory dwelling units within ½-mile of a frequent transit stop. Elsewhere, cities cannot require more than 1 space per home for properties smaller than 6,000 square feet, or 2 per home for larger lots. (Passed)
Washington SB 5466
To eliminate parking minimums in areas near transit stations as part of a broader transit–oriented upzoning package. Passed the Senate, failed in House. (Did not pass)
Washington HB 1110
Eliminated parking minimums for middle housing within ½-mile of a frequent transit stop. Elsewhere, cities cannot require more than 1 space per home for properties smaller than 6,000 square feet, or 2 per home for larger lots. (Passed)
The above efforts were buoyed by 2022 breakthroughs in state-level parking reform. Both Oregon and California adopted policies to make parking fully optional for properties near transit service, and for certain uses in Oregon. The new policies went into effect in both states on January 1, 2023.
Oregon’s parking reform survived the legislative session intact. The sole public hearing on a bill that would have nullified the state’s new land use and transportation rules was canceled after more than 140 Oregon residents and organizations submitted testimony to oppose it. It was never rescheduled.
And in May, California Representative Robert Garcia broke another barrier, elevating parking to the federal level by introducing the People Over Parking Act in Congress. Modeled after California’s state law, the bill would eliminate parking requirements within a half-mile of transit service. He was joined by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (OR), Greg Casar (TX), and Seth Moulton (MA).
The shifting Overton window is a welcome development to advocates like Jordan, who first got involved with parking reform a decade ago. He described the phases of policy change like steps on a ladder. “First, they cap what you can do. Then you legalize certain kinds of housing without it. And then maybe you go for the transit stations,” he said. “Eventually someone’s going to do the whole thing.”
The day when parking minimums are wholly relegated to the past might be a ways off yet, but it’s clear that interest in removing them isn’t going away anytime soon.
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