Minneapolis Considers Parking Reform for Transit-Oriented Developments

By Barb Thoman, Executive Director

Update: On July 10, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed new parking reforms. Thank you to all who contacted your elected officials in support of this change! The new regulations mean less off-street parking is required near high-frequency transit: larger developments (over 50 units) will require 0.5 spaces per unit and smaller developments (under 50 units) will have no off-street parking requirement. This gives greater freedom to develop and make the most of urban space. 

Transit for Livable Communities has long supported reforming the way cities regulate vehicle parking. In cities with lots of cars, including Minneapolis and Saint Paul, providing some space to park vehicles is necessary. But too much parking, and providing it at no cost to the user, can have negative consequences—from perpetuating expensive, low-density development patterns to neighborhood traffic congestion and dependence on car ownership.

TLC wrote and released a report in 2003 titled, The Myth of Free Parking, on the need to revise the regulation, design, provision, and funding of parking. More recently, TLC promoted and advocated for changes in off-street parking requirements proposed and then implemented in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. We now are asking you to work with us to support additional reforms being proposed in Minneapolis by Council Member Lisa Bender.

In 2009, Minneapolis made significant changes to its off-street parking requirements for commercial uses, including offices, retail, restaurants, and coffee shops. Minimum requirements were eliminated or reduced and maximum limits were put in place. Bicycle parking requirements became more prominent. The changes made aligned with the City’s Plan for Sustainable Growth. On its website, the City noted that those changes to requirements better balance the demand for parking with the desire to encourage more traditional urban form and the use of alternative modes of transportation.

Currently, the City of Minneapolis is proposing to change its residential parking requirements. The proposed changes apply to new multi-family developments near high- and moderate-frequency transit routes. The changes would give developers the option of providing less off-street parking than the city code requires. Here is a general summary:

• Off-street parking requirements for a proposed multi-family residential building of 5 units or more may be eliminated if a project is located within 350 feet of a high-frequency bus route or rail station (midday service every 15 minutes or less).
• Off-street parking for a proposed multi-family residential building of 5-45 units may be reduced 100 percent and those with 46 or more units may be reduced by 50 percent below current requirements if located within 1/4 mile of a high frequency bus route or within ½ mile of a rail station (midday service every 15 minutes or less).
• Off-street parking for a proposed multi-family residential building of 5 units or more may be reduced by 10 percent below current requirements if it is located within 350 feet of moderate-frequency bus or rail service (15-30 minute midday service).

Transit for Livable Communities supports these proposed changes. Easing residential parking requirements where good transit is available would encourage walkable, transit-oriented development to the benefit of Minneapolis residents, neighborhoods, and developers alike.

Because providing vehicle parking in a lot, ramp, or underground is expensive, reform may have a positive impact on housing affordability as well. The proposed changes allow a willing developer and the renters or owners of the housing units to save money because they won’t have to pay for space to park a car they do not need or have. This could effectively incentivize people most likely to use transit, to live near transit.

These are common-sense reforms, particularly given the growing number of travel choices in Minneapolis: light rail, bus transit, new bicycle routes and bike sharing, plus a number of car sharing options.

Transit for Livable Communities urges Minneapolis residents to learn more by attending an open house tonight and/or connecting with city council members on this important issue:

Minneapolis Parking Policy Open House
Thursday, May 21, 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Mill City Museum
ADM Conference Room
704 S. 2nd St., Minneapolis

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