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New York City’s Times Square is one example of roads being repurposed for public and pedestrian space. (Image © NYCDOT)

Parking is a big issue in the Dallas/Fort Worth region, an area that 3.4 million more people are expected to call home between now and 2040, raising the total population to 10.6 million—and also adding 2.3 million more cars to clogged roadways.

Parking comes with huge implications for real estate development, said Paris Rutherford, principal with Catalyst Urban Development, one of several speakers during a parking symposium in Arlington, Texas, sponsored by ULI North Texas and other area organizations.

Speakers described several solutions to consider for a flexible future. They included removing minimum requirements, reducing requirements at transit-oriented developments, implementing shared parking, and using market-driven parking revenue models.

Rutherford said that parking is often one of a development’s first underwriting decisions since it lies at the nexus of multiple competing issues: site location and size, density thresholds, market rents, tenant requirements, and cost.

Common parking assumptions don’t always produce the expected results, Rutherford said. Take these scenarios:

  • Municipalities can lower parking requirements to incentivize the market, but the reality is that the market will provide the amount of parking it feels is necessary to lease/sell the development. “Developers may not be willing to take the risk of providing less parking,” Rutherford said.
  • Multimodal transit-oriented development provides the opportunity to reduce parking provisions, but if the developer and lender believe the resulting amount is not enough to service demand, the development will not proceed.
  • Shared parking leads to lower costs and an increased return on investment, but if conflicts occur between uses, this can affect market perception and lower the development’s value. “If you’ve got parking wars between retail, restaurant, and residential patrons . . . it creates a negative stigma,” Rutherford said.

Removing Minimum Parking Requirements

Mexico City, the largest city in North America, recently eliminated minimum parking requirements for new developments and restricted the maximum number of spaces allowed while allowing existing parking to be converted to other uses, according to StreetsBlog USA. The city hopes the new policy will encourage more affordable housing developments near transit stops.

Great Britain, Sao Paulo, and at least 19 U.S. cities have eliminated parking requirements, said Patrick Siegman, principal at Nelson/Nygaard, a San Francisco transportation planning firm.

Minimum parking requirements and free parking can create unintended consequences. Free curbside parking can discourage drivers from using parking garages and lots, for example. Berkeley, California, saw negative impacts that included drivers circling in search of free curb parking, cars spilling into neighborhoods, and perceived parking shortages even though lots and garages that charged for parking were largely empty.

The city instituted a market-based approach in which the city charges the lowest price needed to achieve 65 to 85 percent occupancy curbside on each block. Parking revenue is used to fund public services for the blocks where the revenue is collected, including security, cleaning, help for the homeless, and beautification. The city uses automated license plate recognition for enforcement and measuring occupancy. With the changes, drivers surveyed said that parking is easier to find and more are using previously underused garages.

Reducing Parking Minimums at TODs

Reid Ewing, a professor of city and metropolitan planning at the University of Utah, said that very little research has been done on how parking is used at TODs, and the university is seeking to change that.

“What we are trying to do is create data that will inform decisions on parking to be used by consultants, city officials, and developers in planning their developments,” he said.

Ewing looked at parking uses around five TODs: Redmond TOD, Seattle; Rhode Island Row, Washington, D.C.; Fruitvale Village, San Francisco; Wilshire/Vermont, Los Angeles; and Englewood TOD, Denver.

His study showed that vehicle trips, vehicle ownership, and parking demand all declined with the compactness of neighborhood development. The analysis is being updated and expanded to 30 regions, including Dallas.

Shared Parking and Cost Savings

Addison Circle, a mixed-use development conceived in the 1990s, was one of the first shared-parking developments in Dallas/Fort Worth, but the lender of the second phase shot down the original shared-parking plan even though the anchor tenant and the city supported it. Ultimately, the development shared the footprint of a parking garage, which resulted in significant savings, but the lender didn’t allow the actual sharing of individual spaces between tenant types.

A variety of developments around the United States, including TODs, have implemented shared parking to various degrees.

“Shared parking is an incredibly smart idea that I think ULI pioneered in about 1980 whose time has not yet come,” Ewing said. “We’ve looked at some of the best TODs and they still have reserved parking for residential tenants. That is something residential tenants expect.”

Speakers encouraged the audience of city planners, real estate developers, architects, and consultants to be innovative about the future of parking.

“I thrive in a world where we are trying to conceive environments that are more interesting, more compelling, and more livable for humanity,” said Ross Conway, design director and principal at Gensler. “Parking and cars are huge detriments to how cool our cities are.”