NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Parking Minimums Create Too Many Parking Spots

April 4, 2012

Throughout New York City and several other metropolitan areas across the country, local governments enforce effective parking minimums.  These regulations require residential building developers to make available a specified number of parking spaces for eventual residents.  Government officials propose that there are three substantial benefits to such policies, says The Atlantic.

  • They reduce competition for parking by allowing local residents to find spaces faster.
  • By lowering the amount of time necessary to find a space, the regulations supposedly reduce emissions.
  • Finally, they reduce congestion as people spend less time searching for spaces.

However, recent studies have found that the regulations produce a surplus of spaces beyond what is efficient, with numerous consequences for developers and residents.

  • The convenience of off-street parking spaces promotes driving, even in cities with efficient and expansive transit systems.
  • The more spaces developers must build, the less space they have for actual residential units, which raises rents.
  • Also, mandatory parking spaces can displace ground-level retailers.

Requirements vary throughout New York City: Queens and Staten Island, for example, require effective minimums of 66 and 122 spots per 100 units, respectively.  On the other hand, Manhattan actually enforces the opposite policy of parking maximums in some places.  Nevertheless, analysis of building patterns informs the conclusion that in the absence of minimums, developers would create far fewer spaces.

  • Of about 300 housing developments built in the last decade or so, 77 percent created the exact minimum number of parking spaces.
  • Small buildings, in particular, averaged right at the mandate: those with five to nine units build exactly the required five spaces, and those with 10 to 14 units, exactly the required seven spaces.

There are three broad solutions that will ease the burden of the regulatory mandate:

  • Scrap the policy altogether and let developers decide how many spaces to build.
  • Adjust minimums to local area needs, taking into account the availability of mass transit.
  • Allow developers the opportunity to pay fees allocated toward public transportation in lieu of creating parking spaces.

Source: Eric Jaffe, "Parking Minimums Create Too Many Parking Spots," The Atlantic, March 22, 2012.

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