A 90 second lesson in how parking can kill cities

parking lots
Video screen capture City of Ottawa

The City of Ottawa has a wonderful walkable, cyclable and even skateable downtown core but is surrounded by a lot of sprawl. It also had a zoning bylaw designed in the era where parking requirements were pretty excessive. Lowering parking requirements is very controversial in Ontario, where cities were forcibly merged with surrounding suburbs to give more conservative suburban voters political control. (That’s how Toronto got Rob Ford). This makes it very hard to discuss any reduction of parking standards.

But Ottawa has been trying, and a year ago made this little 90 second video that delivers a lot of information in a humorous package. I missed it at the time, and the discussion might be over in Ottawa, but the video is really still relevant anywhere.

It starts with hippies as a way of demonstrating how old the parking standards really are, and continues by showing how the nicest parts of town were developed before there was a need for any parking.

It also does a great job of explaining how when you add roads and parking, more people drive, requiring more parking, and before you know it, you are living in a sea of parking lots. It shows how high residential parking standards actually increase the cost of housing.

As Eric Jaffe in Planetizen noted, “The biggest objection cities often face to such changes—namely, that a lack of parking will hurt business-“ is not discussed. But he also note that nothing is preventing people from building more parking if they want to, there is no maximum parking standard.

The video concludes that “it doesn’t have to be that way.”

We’re building light rail and bike lanes and neighbourhoods where people can walk instead of having to drive everywhere. That means a more liveable city with more choices, less traffic, and less need for parking.

It ends by noting: “It’s not the sixties anymore.” Indeed. And since we are talking about the sixties, here is another great video from that era that shows what happens when cars take over the world and become the dominant species.

What on Earth!, Les Drew & Kaj Pindal, National Film Board of Canada

A 90 second lesson in how parking can kill cities
The City of Ottawa's cute and cogent explanation of why they wanted to lower their parking standards is relevant anywhere.

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