Not So Complete Streets

By Carolyn Krasnow, Ph.D

In recent years, urban planners and community leaders across Canada have turned to “Smart Growth” planning approaches like Complete Streets and New Urbanism to help communities address common challenges associated with downtown planning in the era of the automobile.  After decades of urban design focusing on the primacy of the auto, approaches focus on creating communities and streetscapes that provide, among other things, better integration of multi-modal transportation and better walking environments.  The point of these planning approaches is to create healthier, less congested and ultimately more livable communities that also foster economic and commercial development.

Arising in the U.S. but quickly becoming international movements, Smart Growth-influenced developments and streetscape upgrades have cropped up throughout Canada.  Canadian cities including Mont-Saint-Hilaire in Quebec, Whitehorse in Yukon, and Markham, Ontario have made their communities more walkable and bicycle-friendly, and improved the quality of life for residents.  UniverCity in British Columbia and McKenzie Towne in Calgary were created as new communities with sustainable and/or new urbanist principles.

Creating urban environments that have a better balance of transportation modes isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Critics of New Urbanism contend that it still accommodates “car culture” more than is desirable, and many people would like to see greatly reduced parking requirements for new developments and cities alike.  And given the aging population, decreasing car ownerships trends among younger people, and the rise of car sharing, there is plenty of reason to plan parking with reduced needs in mind.  But on the flip side, in most places cars are still the primary form of transportation for most people; not taking them into account adequately can hurt existing businesses and new ones.

A developer we worked with on a transit-oriented development in a vibrant Canadian city came up against this problem as they planned their…

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The Metro Vancouver Apartment Parking Study

In support of the Regional Growth Strategy policy to encourage reduced residential parking requirements in coordination with frequent transit service, Metro Vancouver conducted one of the most comprehensive studies of apartment parking supply and demand for a metropolitan area. Evidence was gathered from current and emerging trends, discussions with municipal planners and engineers, and developers, and the completion of two regional surveys. From this investigation, key findings and opportunities have been identified for consideration by municipalities and the development industry to achieve a better match between apartment parking supply and demand close to frequent transit.

Executive Summary

Encouraging compact communities, sustainable transportation choices, and housing affordability are well-established objectives in Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy and Regional Affordable Housing Strategy. Parking is at the nexus of these objectives. Given that apartments represent over one-half of new housing starts in the region today and will remain so over the next three decades as the population grows by one million people, having current and efficient parking requirements are critical to the achievement of a sustainable region and livable neighbourhoods.

In metropolitan Vancouver, the cost of constructing on-site structured parking can range from $20,000 to $45,000 per stall, plus maintenance costs. Ensuring the parking requirements match actual demand can help reduce unnecessary housing development costs.

The Metro Vancouver Apartment Parking Study is one of the most comprehensive examinations of apartment parking supply and demand conducted on a metropolitan area. Through the exploration of emerging trends, review of past studies, discussions with municipal planners, engineers, and developers, and completion of two regional surveys, a robust evidence base was established.

Current and Emerging Trends

The amount of parking required in new apartment developments should reflect current and emerging trends. Transit ridership continues to increase year after year, in part from improved transit service levels and the expansion of TransLink’s Frequent…

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