Anti-car group wants Duluth to stop requiring developers to build parking

There’s a new front in the campaign to eliminate our society’s stubborn dependence on the automobile in the name of global warming. Namely, just stop building parking lots and ramps and watch what happens.

As part of a comprehensive review of parking policy in Duluth, the city planning commission recently heard from the head of the Parking Reform Network, a Portland-based organization dedicated to drastically reducing automobiles in cities, one parking space at a time.

The leftist group’s website makes clear the direction they’re steering us.

Car parking encourages more car ownership and more driving. When people can cheaply and easily park their cars, they’ll use them more often. When, because of parking lots, it’s difficult to walk somewhere, then driving and parking might be the only choice. When most people drive, it’s difficult to generate the density and demand for good transit service…

Car parking makes our communities less equitable. Parking requirements force car-free (and car-lite) households to pay for costly parking spaces they don’t need, and since vehicle ownership tends to increase with income, this often forces lower-income households to subsidize the parking costs of their more affluent neighbors.

One of the organization’s main strategies is to sell cities like Duluth on ending the requirement for developers to build more parking places to accommodate the increased traffic that results from most projects. The anti-automobile outfit gets a foot in the door by presenting the concept as a way to reduce development costs, according to the News Tribune.

City officials may call an end to telling developers how much parking they need to provide in order to do business in the community.

This week, members of the Duluth Planning Commission heard from Tony Jordan, president of the Portland, Oregon-based Parking Reform Network, who encouraged the city to follow in the footsteps of more than 50 communities nationwide that have done away with parking mandates.

Jordan suggested local developers and entrepreneurs can be relied upon to determine their own parking needs, predicting: “They’ll make smart decisions about their business, because it’s their money on the line.”

But that’s just the beginning of the drastic policy changes the Parking Reform Network wants to see adopted. The recommendations listed on its website would significantly jack up costs for drivers using existing parking places, effectively a financial penalty for driving.

Performance pricing for public on-street (and municipal garage) parking

Mandatory parking cash-out for employer-paid parking

Peak-hour commuter parking surcharges

Unbundling of the cost of parking from building leases and sales

Some members of the planning commission voiced concerns over the inevitable impact of restricting parking on tourism and business in a community that relies heavily on the automobile.

“We really do want to make sure we get this right for Duluth,” said Adam Fulton, deputy director of the city’s planning and economic development division, as he encouraged planning commission members to consider the various ramifications of the proposed parking policy changes.

[Planning Commissioner Andrea] Wedul talked about the importance of bolstering the city’s mass transit system if Duluth is going to reduce its dependence on personal vehicles in the future.

Wedul also noted that tourism plays an important role in Duluth’s economy and asked whether reduced parking requirements might jeopardize that business, as most tourists arrive in town via personal vehicles.

Duluth already exempts developers in downtown and on the waterfront from a requirement to add parking spaces. But it remains to be seen whether city planners go further down a road that makes Duluth a less doable destination for drivers.