Advocacy Alert: Oppose increasing parking minimums downtown

The City of Columbia is in the process of updating the Unified Development Code (UDC), the City’s zoning and development standards. Last week, an amendment to the UDC was introduced to increase downtown residential parking minimums.

Text of UDC parking minimum amendment

The code currently requires 0.25 parking space per bedroom (essentially 1 parking space per 4 bedrooms). The amendment would triple this requirement to 0.75 parking space per bedroom (or 3 spaces for 4 bedrooms).

PedNet Coalition strongly opposes this amendment, for the reasons listed in detail below.

Contact your Council member today to ask them to oppose this amendment.

City Council will most likely vote on the amendments in a special session on Saturday, March 11 at 1pm at City Hall.

Why oppose increasing downtown residential parking minimums?

The data do not support that there is a parking shortage downtown

Smart Growth America completed an audit on parking in downtown and adjacent neighborhoods in 2015. The audit documented that although downtown on-street parking was full at times, the downtown parking garages had both hourly and permit parking available at all times. The audit also found that a permit parking area was highly underutilized, with peak utilization rates at only 35 percent.

This proposal is entirely contrary to the recommendations of the Parking & Traffic Management Task Force

In 2016, City Council established a Parking & Traffic Management Task Force to study parking and traffic management best practices, and the UDC regulations related to downtown parking. The Task Force met for 6 months, and spent much of its time considering the UDC regulations on downtown residential parking minimums. The Task Force was generally in favor of reducing the parking minimum requirement, but decided to recommend keeping the parking minimums at the current rate of 0.25 per bedroom until the question could be further considered by a permanent Parking & Transportation Management Commission. At no point was the Task Force in favor of increasing the parking minimum requirement.

Parking attracts more cars and encourages travel by car

Tripling the required residential parking minimums will have the effect of drawing more motor vehicle traffic into the downtown area, and exacerbating congestion. It would also work against the City’s many efforts to encourage a more sustainable balance of transportation, including walking, biking, and public transit.

Young people are driving at vastly lower rates than just ten years ago

Many young people are avoiding even getting a driver’s license, instead opting to live somewhere with a variety of transportation options, including walking, biking, public transit, and ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft. Many urban developers are moving away from providing residential parking at all because their residents are not interested in it.

Parking minimums hurt communities

The research on parking minimums is in consensus that minimum parking requirements pollute the air and water, encourage sprawl, raise housing costs, exclude low-income people, degrade urban design and historic preservation, and damage the economy. Many cities are eliminating parking minimums entirely because of their negative effects.

At a time when other cities are eliminating parking minimums, increasing parking minimums downtown would damage the heart of Columbia’s economy, and move our community farther away from a sustainable and equitable transportation system.