How can I pitch removing parking minimums to my council people?

Many cities are cutting back or eliminating their minimum parking requirements, allowing individual property owners to decide how much parking they do or do not need to provide. If you're trying to get the elected officials in your city on board, here are a few things you might consider:

First, find out what they're already thinking and saying about this issue, and also look into what key stakeholders who might influence those elected officials are saying—small business owners, groups like the Chamber of Commerce, real-estate developers, homeowners, renters, and so on. Have there been local news articles about parking issues in recent weeks? Any major votes or discussion of the issue at City Hall? Do your homework. Find out who your allies are, too, and connect with them.

By finding out where people already seem to stand and what their reservations are, you can identify arguments that might sway some of the aforementioned groups. A lot of these arguments are covered in our article on the many costs of too much parking, including:

  • Parking minimums make housing more expensive.
  • Parking occupies valuable land that could otherwise go to more productive use.
  • Parking impedes walkability by creating "dead zones" between destinations.
  • Parking is expensive for small businesses and may deter business formation.

City officials are often most swayed by hard data and evidence: it helps them to defend a possibly-controversial stance before skeptical members of the public. To give them such evidence to work with, check out:

  • Examples of cities that have already eliminated their parking minimums, many of which are on our ever-growing map.
  • Case studies of high-profile examples of cities that have done away with some or all parking minimums, such as Portland, Buffalo, and Hartford.
  • Studies on America's oversupply of parking, such as this 2018 one.

Once you've got your evidence and talking points prepared, try to find a time to meet one-on-one with your council person. Especially in a smaller town or city, you may be able to buy them a coffee and chat for half an hour. People's minds are more easily swayed in this kind of intimate setting than by rhetoric in an op-ed, blog post, or at a public hearing.

Public hearings are where the rubber hits the road, though—where major city decisions are made. So check out Strong Towns's advice for being a more effective public meeting participant.

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