ENDING PARKING MINIMUMS IN CAMBRIDGE: Ending parking minimums is framed as a citywide zoning change. The final vote comes up shortly. Dennis Carlone has voted against ending parking minimums, following the lead of the entire Planning Board. Paul Toner added an amendment to the Order to add “some oversight” to the process to prevent developers from “abusing” the policy by not building sufficient parking “for a review every three years" of impacts by CDD. Patty Nolan in Cambridge Day notes for her vote that “It means that we are making it more obvious that car ownership is not something that we want to have more of in the city … The message will be that yes, it is more expensive and more trouble than in the past to own a car here….I am fully owning that and recognizing that and I think it’s the right way to go.” This seems to be the shared view of a majority of Cambridge City Councillors.
Abolishing Parking Minimums is a national trend. The stated aim in the Cambridge situation is to to cut down on car usage and to enable the creation of more market rate housing (infill and other); however it will also make it easier and far less expensive for labs and commercial developers and will likely take away some current controls the city has to oversee employee transportation.
A recent peer reviewed study of Buffalo NY’s decision to end parking minimums points out that the results of their decision have been very mixed. You can read it HERE:
We learn from the Buffalo experience that
Unfortunately, the Buffalo report left out both new single-family and two-family homes there and properties under 5,000 square feet so we have no real comparative data. In Cambridge new single- and two-family homes (market rate infill structures primarily, or current residential demolitions) will still probably include parking because of the huge demand for this and the sizable profit for residences with parking. This is what new owners of multi-million-dollar homes expect.
Another study, this one from Portland Oregon also addresses impacts of parking minimum changes. Here we learn that: "In general, the survey of residents does not show a relationship between the availability of on-site parking and car ownership among residents…. Residents at buildings with on-site parking and those without had similar levels of vehicle ownership." In short, if the aim of this new city-wide zoning ordinance is to lower the number of vehicles on Cambridge streets, this decision is not likely to help – and may make things worse. While there is downwards trend in car ownership nationally, since we are increasing the number of residential units and commercial workers so significantly, we are unlikely to see real vehicle ownership diminishing. What is surprising moreover is that the City also seems to have no idea how many cars there will be per 100 new units on the city streets.
This citywide zoning change may well mean that we have more vehicles on Cambridge streets not fewer ones.
One additional concern is if the Ordinance will allow people to plug in (and rent out) mobile homes or similar forms on their properties.
We may know soon enough how local Cambridge residents and those who work here will experience impacts. It will be important that in our 3-year study all new buildings (or additions) be included in the analysis, as well as any increase or decrease in car registrations, parking registrations, or traffic congestion. See also this Boston Globe article.
What Cambridge's 3 year report needs to look at specifically.