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Cities are ditching parking minimums. Here’s what mayors can do next to promote livable cities.

50+ US cities and towns have eliminated their off-street parking minimums. What can they add in place of parking? A new transit option that’s the next step a greener, more livable city.

Peter Wajda •

What's disruptive to urban development, costs millions to build and maintain, and isn't even fully utilized on the busiest shopping days?

For years, the United States has had a parking problem: too much of it. In some cities, more than 40% of downtown is taken up by parking. All these extra parking spaces add up: every space in a surface parking lot costs about $10,000 to build. When construction goes vertical, it gets even more expensive, with the cost of a 300-space garage usually exceeding $10 million. Even if cost was no object, parking takes up land that could be better used for housing, shopping, or recreation. 

A 2017 study found that including garage parking increased residential rents by 17 percent. Given the pressing need for affordable housing in cities across the country, we can’t afford to keep building this much parking.

The good news is a growing number of cities are repealing the parking minimums that created this problem. More than 50 US cities and towns have ditched their off-street parking minimums, from progressive strongholds like San Jose, Calif., and Austin, Texas, to more surprising inclusions like Anchorage, Alaska, and Branson, Mo. Look more closely, and the broad appeal is obvious — whether you see it as a tool to combat climate change by slashing emissions, or as a way to cut red tape and let the market supply the right amount of parking, it's an idea that just makes sense. 

With this shift in land use, transit’s role becomes increasingly pivotal: if you can’t park, you have to be able to ride. One new transportation mode has gained traction to reduce private car dependency without requiring long planning cycles or heavy infrastructure investment. It’s microtransit — an on-demand service that offers shared rides in dynamically routed vehicles. Riders can request a ride based on their own schedule and unique needs.

City leaders brought in to optimize overall infrastructure — such as Barkha Patel, Director of Infrastructure in Jersey City, N.J., and David Kucharsky, Director of Traffic and Parking in Salem, Mass. — have introduced successful microtransit services as a vital component of that project. 

Microtransit is proven to reduce car-reliance and improve access to public transit. A 2023 survey of Via-powered microtransit services in 14 US cities shows this transit mode significantly increases mobility access, with 31% of respondents reporting using the service as a means to connect to other forms of public transportation. 37% said they would have driven alone in a private car if the service didn’t exist. 

Learn more about how microtransit can help cities improve services while repurposing real estate assets for better uses.

Peter Wajda avatar
Peter Wajda

Peter Wajda is a transit planner at Via, focusing on fostering mobility equity through high-quality, multimodal transit networks.