Parking requirements for residential developments are meant to ensure that their residents have spaces to park and do not end up creating public hazards by parking along roads in ways that impede traffic or snow removal. However, most parking standards are based on suburban parking examples in other parts of the country that may not suit communities in this region and limit their ability to adapt to changes in transportation needs and household sizes. For residential development in densely-built core areas near transit, cars are often not needed. Residents may not own cars, and there is often existing public or private parking that is, or could be, available at night when commercial demand is limited and residential demand is highest. Also, it is in a developer’s interest to provide sufficient parking for the intended residents, thus parking requirements often act as an unnecessary requirement to the permitting process.
Reducing parking lessens development costs for housing projects. A paved parking space costs thousands of dollars to create and more to maintain. Eliminating the need for additional parking also has other benefits, including creating outdoor public or commercial spaces, lessening storm runoff, reducing summer heating, and decreasing flooding.
- Remove or reduce parking space requirements in core areas with sidewalks, on street parking or transit nearby. Removing requirements entirely would mean developers would not need to construct parking and that residents seeking to rent or buy in an area will self-select a home that fits with their vehicle needs. This can work where spaces are available nearby or residents do not have cars. If you want to keep parking amount requirements, reduce these to no more than one space per residential unit and allow developers to count on-street or shared parking spaces where available towards meeting that standard. A Shared Parking Ordinance can increase residential and business flexibility (Recommended by the Cecil Group to the City of Claremont as part of a Downtown Parking Study). Remove parking requirements for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) or at least reduce them to one space per unit (Recommended by the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) to the Village of Ludlow in a recent audit of Ludlow’s zoning bylaws, conducted as part of the Zoning for Great Neighborhoods project in Vermont).
Streets and Sidewalks
Streets and sidewalks are expensive to build and maintain. Residential subdivisions usually require the developer to build these, with sidewalks more common in urbanized areas. Travel lanes on roads in the subdivision can be unnecessarily wide, which is not only costly but creates stormwater problems, heat pollution, and leads to increased vehicle speeds. Vehicle travel lanes of 9-10 feet are adequate, but more travel shoulder outside of the ‘fog line’ may serve as a bike lane. Sidewalks are excellent for walkability, but options to consider for sidewalks include: (1) may not be required for short streets or in more rural areas, (2) may only be needed on one side, (3) may have less width, as long as they meet ADA accessibility guidelines, or (4) may even be eliminated in places with alternate pedestrian access such as a dedicated path.
- Review private road/street standards to minimize lane width and use traffic calming techniques to slow traffic (see resources on Traffic Calming 101 and Traffic Calming Measures).
- Consider when sidewalks are required while still providing pedestrian access.
Transportation and Energy in Housing
A home’s overall operational costs can be lessened if it is built to a high energy standard, and transportation costs associated with a home’s location can be reduced if there are transit or walkable options.
- Require large developments to be located along existing or planned public transit routes.
- Impose traffic impact study guidelines that specifically require consideration of transit, biking and walking.
- Allow an applicant to propose long-term funding for public transit in lieu of making roadway improvements.
- Ensure that homes are built to high energy standards.
- Provide EV charging spots are larger residential developments.
- Connect homes in new projects to existing sidewalk networks.