Washington News Service - Parking lots dominate the landscapes in many cities, but state lawmakers across the country are cutting back on reserving room for these often underutilized spaces. More than a dozen states considered ending or reducing parking mandates in 2023 legislative sessions, including Washington. Nearly every city in the U.S. requires a certain number of parking spaces be built for each new business and housing complex.
Michael Andersen, a senior researcher with Sightline Institute, a Northwest think tank focused on sustainability, said policymakers are reconsidering past efforts to overbuild parking lots.
"People are saying, 'Wait a minute, wait a minute, there are a bunch of unintended consequences here," he said. "There are a bunch of longer-term side effects of building our cities with these expanses of parking lots everywhere. Let's let cities evolve as they will.'"
Andersen said creating too many lots has environmental, social and economic costs. Washington lawmakers debated four parking-related proposals. Only one passed, banning parking minimums for accessory dwelling units and "middle housing" within a half-mile of frequent transit stops.
Andersen said this issue is an extension of the larger housing affordability problem gripping cities big and small. He said an uptick in telecommuting during the pandemic prompted a large migration of people from big cities to smaller ones.
"These housing shortages have rapidly become more bipartisan because they're manifesting in new areas, and I think people are just looking for ways to cut the cost of housing," he explained.
Last year, Oregon and California started the trend of eliminating or reducing parking mandates.