Friday, April 08, 2005

Parking Incentives for Developers

I was recently asked how cities have structured incentives for developers to incorporate carsharing into their projects. At the present time I'm aware of only one city that actually has something in place - Austin, Texas (and they don't even have a carsharing program yet!)

Katie Larson of the City of Austin informs me that their program uses a zoning overlay and at the present only applies to the University Neighborhood west of the University of Texas campus, where the city is trying to encourage higher density in this area. The policy allows a developer to reduce the required parking by 40% if the development "participates in a carsharing program that complies with the requirements prescribed by administrative rule". These rules have not yet been written. And they are currently working on a comprehensive design standard for commercial developments everywhere in the city that would apply to developments or greater than 100 units would allow the minimum parking requirement to be reduced by 20 spaces for each carsharing vehicle. (

In Vancouver BC, Tracey Axelsson, founder of CAN - Cooperative Auto Network, reports that her city is just about ready to approve changes for market rate multi-family housing. The policy is part of an ammendment to the Parking Bylaw and allows that for every shared car on site they do not to have to build 3 stalls (a net reduction of 2 spaces). The policy allows the ratio to be applied to developments as small as 30 units. It specifically applies to "cooperative vehicles in cooperative spaces". Other changes proposed in the document include parking reductions for multi-family housing of smaller dwelling unit sizes.

Planners in San Francisco proposed that rezoning of Rincon Hill area would exempt carsharing spaces from being counted in the parking maximums they were proposing. ( Most cities specify a MINIMUM number of required parking spaces per unit or area while Portland, Oregon and a few others follow the European pattern of specifying parking MAXIMUMS. The rationale, as near as I can tell, is: a) the developer knows the market better than a planner (and is one who has to get the construction loan); b) land is too valuable and it's ultimately a no-win game for government to try to mandate a parking space for everyone; and c) ultimately congested parking in a neighborhood may be the strongest signal the consumer gets about car ownership.

Meanwhile, the other Vancouver, in Washington state, reports efforts there to ammend the code are on hold while other things catch up. Efforts are underway in Seattle and I've heard rumors that Berkeley and Boston may also have parking incentives in the works. Can anyone help with current information elsewhere? Please post a comment below.