Somerville, MA rebels against minimum parking requirements

In a city where people can spend hours searching for parking, Boston officials are pursuing a strategy that seems as galling as it is counterintuitive: They are deliberately discouraging construction of new spaces.

The policy shift — which comes even as thousands of new residents flock into its neighborhoods — is being implemented across the city, with officials relaxing once inflexible requirements that parking be built with every new residence. The goal is to encourage the use of public transportation, and to devote more land and money to affordable housing, open spaces, and other amenities. Officials also say the city’s youthful population is becoming more accustomed to life without a car.

“We don’t need a parking space for every bedroom in every new building,” Peter Meade, head of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said in a recent interview. He cited US census data showing that one in three Boston residents is between 20 and 35, and most bike, walk, or use public transportation to get to work.

Residents are complaining the new policy will make matters worse in the short run, even if there is a longer-run substitution away from cars.  By the way, this is not causally connected but there is evidence Boston has reached “peak car”:

The number of registered vehicles in the city has dropped by nearly 14 percent in the last five years, from 362,288 in 2008 to 311,943 today, according to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

The full story is here, and my earlier column on minimum parking requirements is here.


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