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Parking 🅿️ Small town parking regulations (elimination and/or maximum parking regulations)


There is a lot written about parking, doing away with parking regulations in some parts of cities, focusing on on-street parking within downtowns and urban areas, but what about small towns. I think eliminating parking requirements within a central business district is a possibility if the pedestrian infrastructure is available. Outside of that, do you think that the market is able to determine it's own parking needs? I have seen big box retailers require more parking than the minimum in the regulations, but do you know if regulations have have successfully minimized the amount of surface parking they have.

Our regulations now are way different than they were about 5 years ago. We prohibit parking to be between the front of the building and the road for our downtown districts, and allow up to 50 percent to be be between the building and the street in other commercial districts. We don't require any off street parking in our downtown districts, but still have minimum in our commercial districts, but we encourage shared parking when possible and have a cap of 150% of the minimum. We also require bike parking for all commerical development if they provide parking.

Do you know of other things that small towns are doing to minimize the amount of parking and/or encourage more pedestrian oriented development, particularly within small towns or outer suburban areas?
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Suburb Repairman

moderator in moderation
Staff member
Big things on my end:
  • Eliminate minimums wherever possible. The market does a pretty good job, and there is exactly zero science to parking ratios. I'm always shocked when "property rights" folks that are all about the "free market" are the staunchest defenders of forced parking ratios.
  • I'm not a fan of maximums, for much the same reason as above.
  • A good role for municipal regs is to drive the DESIGN of parking lots. And you can drive that in a way that is more effective without a maximum. Things like landscape requirements, tree cover proximity, root zone protection, requiring breaking up of large lots into sublots, etc., etc.
  • If you can't eliminate politically, create a method that allows credit for adjacent on-street parking or public parking within ____ feet.
  • If you can't eliminate politically, create some really, really aggressive options for shared parking that are easy & administrative.
  • If you can't eliminate politically, consolidate the ratios and try to get to a small number of ratios. This will help you with change-of-use later.

I classify myself as a hardcore parking reformer, but I also recognize political reality in small towns with no/bad transit and no/bad bike & ped infrastructure.


If you can't eliminate politically, create some really, really aggressive options for shared parking that are easy & administrative.
I want to know more- especially when there are multiple ownerships involved- it seems property owners don't want to commit to easements.

I wanted to do the "YOLO" version- no numerical rules, all sharing allowed, design standards only.

I got the community to agree to lover minimums by 40% and allow for street parking and shared parking offsets, cut generation numbers a bit, allow for "local study" evidence so we don't always have to go off ITE, and a few other things (required pedestrian access ways etc).


Dear Leader
Staff member
Agree with @Suburb Repairman. A few more things:
  • If you absolutely must have parking minimums, use building type as the basis for the number of spaces, rather than a granular list of uses. Don't forget ADA minimums.
  • Also, if you absolutely must have parking minimums, set a maximum. Maybe minimum + 50%. More parking on a site = lower assessment per square foot / meter / acre / hectare.
  • Strict access management. One curb cut per lot, period, unless it's some large shopping center. Outparcels get no curb cuts to the public ROW. "WAH OUR CORPORATE STANDARDS REQUIRE AT LEAST FOUR CURB CUTS!" Too bad. Easy vehicle access = crappy pedestrian environment, and more conflict points for accidents.
  • Keep access driveways narrow. In the FBC I wrote, the range is 16' to 20' for two way accesses, and 12' to 14' for one way.
  • No continuous curb cuts, or off-street parking where the street serves as a drive aisle.
  • For corner lots, allow access only from the less busy corner side street.
  • Set a minimum distance from the access drive to an intersection. (60' is good for TND.)
  • No parking between a front (and corner side) elevation of a street-fronting building and the street.
  • Dedicated walkway with a ≤ 5% slope between the main entrance of a business and the street, and through any parking lots.
  • Cross-access provisions between neighboring commercial lots.
  • Parking space grade in any direction: ≤ 5%, or ≤ 2% for an ADA space.
  • Circulation: layout must let vehicles enter and exit from the street driving forward. Drive aisle dead end must have a turnaround space. Keep queued vehicles from blocking any spaces. (One way to do this: minimum driveway throat length.)
  • Internal landscaping: 9' x 18' island at the end of each row, and intervals of 10 spaces / 90' or less. Alternative: continuous 5' wide island between adjacent parking rows.
  • Landscape buffer around the parking lot area.
  • Driveway / drive aisle surface: asphalt, concrete, paver block. Parking space surface: asphalt, concrete, paver block, grasscrete, plastic cellular grid system, wheel strips. NO LOOSE GRAVEL/AGGREGATE, DIRT, GRASS, ETC. NO INFORMAL PARKING PATCHES. Require a durable structural edge of some kind.
  • Lighting: 12' - 18' maximum height, ground to bottom of luminare. Maximum 4" sonotube exposure above grade. Maximum light temperature 2700K - 3000K. Maximum light level on surface: 10 lux, dark sky commuity: 5 lux.
  • Provisions for Level 2 / 3 vehicle charging; at least conduit and pull boxes.
  • Dedicated area for shopping cart return. Prohibit corrals in parking spaces.
  • 9' x 18' regular space, 17' x 18' ADA space, 22' - 25' drive aisle for 90° parking. No reduced size compact car spaces. This isn't 1978. (It's in the FBC I wrote, over my objections. There's worse things to allow in a code, really.)
Aspects of parking I see in too many small towns, that make their commercial corridors look like crap:
  • Curb cuts: too many, too wide, or continuous.
  • Landscaping: none.
  • Surface: aggregate / dirt.
  • No defined parking spaces or drive aisles, and no defined edges.
  • Most or all of the parking in front of principal street fronting buildings.
  • Too much parking.


Also- minimum 5% landscaping islands (with trees, we also have a shading requirement) and maximum contiguous run of spaces- we do no more than 25.