Buffalo parking minimums abolition

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Brief summary of this reform

Under its new Green Code, Buffalo abolished all of its minimum parking requirements.

Although the city retains some influence over parking provision (see details below), Hess and Rehler (2021) find large reductions in the provision of parking in the first two years of the new policy compared with what the previous minimums required.

Why should you care?

This case of parking minimums abolition includes a safeguard, that certain development proposals are required to complete a TDM plan, which can result in the provision of off-street parking. This may have helped reassure doubters before the reform. However, it seems that this is probably not a case of retaining parking minimums in disguise.

Hess and Rehler (2021) offer a takeaway for practice from their study: "Our findings suggest mixed-use developers are likely to take advantage of the ability to provide less parking in highly accessible locations. Though many developers quickly pivot to the newfound possibilities of providing fewer parking spaces, others continue to meet earlier requirements. Cities of all types stand to benefit from undoing constraining parking policies of the past and allowing developers to transform parking lots to “higher uses.”

Country

United States of America

Vehicle type

cars

State/province

New York

Key actor type

Local government

Jurisdiction

City of Buffalo

Primary motivation

enable housing or other infill

Agencies involved

City of Buffalo Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning

Is it a model or a warning?

useful model

Reform type

Main parking category

Main parking paradigm shift

minimums abolition

Off-street various

Promotes all three Adaptive Parking paradigm shifts

Adaptive Parking thrust

Implementation status

Year adopted

R: Relax about parking supply and stop boosting it

implemented

2017

Goals of the reform

A key stated aim of Buffalo's Green Code is to revitalize development in the city. So it seems clear that a primary goal in abolishing the parking minimums was to remove a key barrier to sensitive development and redevelopment of sites within the city (while also trying to make sure that development in the city would not increase traffic too much).

Impetus (what problem, campaign, opportunity or event prompted action?)

The City of Buffalo is at the core of its metropolitan area and had suffered many many decades of economic stagnation. However, real-estate development interest picked up in the recent decade. This prompted a review of outdated zoning regulations that led to the form-based Green Code of Jan. 2017.

Detailed description of the reform

Buffalo abolished minimum parking requirements for all land-uses and across the whole city (which represents 255,000 people in the core of the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area of 1,130,00 (as of 2018).

Buffalo’s new Green Code states on page 8-5: “There are no provisions that establish a minimum number of off-street parking spaces for development."

Page 8-5 of the Green Code mentions that the city retains some influence over parking provision: "certain development proposals are required to complete a transportation demand management plan, per Section 8.4, which can result in the provision of off-street parking.”

Hess and Rehler (2021) explain that this provision does NOT amount to parking minimums in disguise:
"according to Article 8.4, major site plan approval requires a project-specific TDM plan implementing strategies from a menu of options with implications for parking such as public transit pass subsidies, roadway improvements, shared parking, and carpooling programs. Developers can provide more or less parking than the modal share objective for their project (after accounting for TDM strategies); doing so by 10% or more requires written justification. These new policies allow considerable deviation from earlier parking requirements, allowing the market to influence parking supply considerations. It is now legally possible for residential, commercial, and mixed-use projects to provide no off-street parking."

Results or impacts

Hess and Rehler (2021) have investigated 36 major developments and their parking provision in the first two years of the Green Code. They found: "First, 47% of major developments included fewer parking spaces than previously permissible, suggesting earlier minimum parking requirements may have been excessive. Second, mixed-use developments introduced 53% fewer parking spaces than would have been required by earlier minimum requirements as developers readily took advantage of the newfound possibility to include less off-street parking. Aggregate parking spaces among single-use projects exceeded the earlier minimum requirements, suggesting developers of such projects were less motivated to deviate from accepted practices in determining the parking supply for urban development."

Sources and acknowledgements

Painted Greek Island

Last updated: 

16 Mar 2021