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Austin Parking Requirements Exhaust-ed


In 2013 the Austin City Council axed parking requirements for the downtown Central Business District. Now, ten years later Council voted in May to repeal code-mandated parking minimums for new developments, paving the way for numerous potential benefits for our evolving city. It is important to note that this mandate does not eliminate parking, or ADA parking requirements, but instead removes the often-excessive amount of parking that has historically been required. This will give developers flexibility to build the amount of parking they deem appropriate while also potentially saving the cost of delivering excess parking.

The vote to end minimum parking requirements is significant for a number of reasons. People tend to not question the monetary or health cost of parking, yet they each have high unseen price tags. Locally speaking, each surface parking space in Austin costs up to $5,000 to build, $25,000 for above ground parking garage spaces, and $35,000 for underground parking spaces. Parking also deeply affects the design of buildings, the flow of traffic and the quality of public space, not to mention car emission contribution to global climate change. Eliminating the minimum allows for compaction and therefore density – creating a positive feedback loop of highly walkable spaces that are ripe for public gathering and activation as well as public transit connections.

The idea of losing parking in a city whose main mode of transportation is by car may spark a little concern, but TBG Associate Adrianne Kartachak says this is mostly a perception issue. “The new parking flexibility is a good thing,” she explains, “but it may not dramatically impact our city in the short term since developers will still be able to choose whether or not they want to reduce parking. This change may be slow but bringing the topic to the forefront of conversations at least shows developers how much they (and our community) can truly save.”

Rob Parsons, Senior Associate and Planning team member references TBG project Plaza Saltillo, a six-block transit-oriented development that is compact and walkable on the east side of Austin and relies on shared parking. Rob says that the default starting point for TBG planning projects is shared parking, and hopes this approach is one developers will be encouraged to make going forward without the complexities of a parking requirement. The city’s 2020 Mobility Bond includes budgeting for transportation infrastructure like bike lines and sidewalks, which in tandem with less space required for parking, really start to move the needle when it comes to sustainability, connectivity, and well-designed cities.

Overall, the cost of parking is high – economically, environmentally, aesthetically and within its effect on communities. With the retirement of parking requirements, we hope design that prioritizes cars over people is a thing of the past. The change to our built environment, resulting from this vote may be slow, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

A one-bedroom apartment comes with 1.5 parking spots. Austin could change that. – Austin Monitor
In 2022, It’s Time for Austin To End Parking Minimums Citywide – TOWERS