Do fewer parking spaces mean fewer traffic jams? Some municipal governments think so.
Boston has joined Toronto in issuing building permits to developers of large condominium projects that provide zero parking spaces. A 175-unit luxury condominium project near the TD Garden (where the Boston Bruins play) will not have on-site parking. The developer argued that there’s plenty of public transit available – and the city agreed.
We are increasingly seeing more examples of cities with severe traffic problems approving housing developments that discourage or prohibit automobile use. There’s another proposed Boston project featuring zero parking spaces in which the developer intends to make tenants sign legal agreements that they don’t and won’t own a car.
Toronto’s foremost example of anti-car thinking is the 42-storey, 318-unit tower south of Dundas Street on University Avenue. It is the first condo in Toronto to have no residential parking. The developer persuaded the city that purchasers of 750-square-foot downtown condos aren’t the kind of people who own or even want to own cars.
Another proposed condo development in Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood created a stir, not by proposing zero parking spots, but by proposing a fairly generous 65 parking spots for the 70-unit condo. In this case, area residents objected that cars from the condo would jam side streets and soak up limited on-street parking spots.
Clearly, there’s no “one-size” solution. Many people who slap down a million-plus dollars for a luxury condo wouldn’t dream of being without a parking space. On the other hand, dedicated urbanites can definitely survive being car-less by relying on public transit, car-sharing and bicycles.
Bicycles? Well, there’s another problem. Let’s start with the safety issue.
Ontario’s chief coroner reviewed 129 cycling deaths in the province in a four-year period and referenced a European study that found that cyclists are eight times more likely to suffer a fatal injury per kilometre of road travelled compared with occupants of a motor vehicle.
But even bicycles bring about their own parking problems. Amsterdam is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world and cyclists there often have to cruise the streets the way motorists do to look for an empty parking space.
In the Dutch city of about a million people, it is estimated that there can be half-a-million bicycles on the road on any given day but only 200,000 dedicated bicycle parking bays. Irate cyclists have nearly rioted and Amsterdam is going to build 9,000 new bicycle parking spaces near the main train station at a cost of more than €100-million ($146-million).
Toronto has promised to tackle the bicycle parking shortage, too. There are about 17,000 of the post-and-ring bicycle lock-up stands on sidewalks around the city to which will be added bike corrals, lockers and stations. Bike corrals let bikes park in a small space that otherwise would have been used for cars. Lockers and stations are few and far between and require payment.
Downtown housing units with no parking spaces are becoming the new normal. There’s another project proposed at Yonge and Queen with 580 rental suites and 580 bicycle parking spaces – but none for cars.
I read an e-mail from “Guy with bike,” who says the bicycle parking in his building consists of a difficult-to-enter rack in a small room – and it is only big enough to accommodate standard-size bikes. “No room for longtails, cargo bikes, trikes or trailers,” he complains. As a result, he’s storing two bikes and a chariot trailer “in what should be our dining room.”
Parking wars aren’t being settled; they’re just being refocused.
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