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City review of parking requirements might mean no guidelines at all

Edmonton reviews availability of parking in the city
WATCH ABOVE: The city wants to review how much parking is actually needed in Edmonton if a business opens up. Vinesh Pratap reports.

A massive review of Edmonton’s parking regulations is about to be launched. One conclusion could see no parking regulations at all.

Currently there’s a whole long list of regulations that dictate how many parking spots each individual type of business must provide, from hair salons, to cafes to banks.

“I think re-examining our parking in and of itself is an exciting and innovative thing to do,” senior planner Anne Stevenson said. “It’s something we are seeing other cities start to think about and start to implement.”

READ MORE: City of Edmonton to consider converting parking lots into downtown park

The review will first look at low density residential parking, and parking on main streets and transit areas.

The rules Edmonton has date back several decades, and while no one is driving around in pink Cadillac convertibles anymore, the rules we use have their roots in car centric centres.

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“Many of our own parking bylaw rates were set back in the 60s and 70s based on suburban Florida, so it’s exciting to see the revitalization that’s happening,” Stevenson said. “The city is looking at the parking rates and saying what actually works for us.”

She said early informal feedback has been a surprise. Planners have braced themselves for a reaction that suggests drivers are car dependent.

“Some people said very clearly it’s a business decision,” Stevenson said. “If a business thinks they can survive without parking, all the power to them. Many people said I wouldn’t go to that business but if they think they can make a go of it, we fully support it. That’s a really big step from where we are now, but it is a way some cities are choosing to deal with minimum parking requirements.

READ MORE: Edmonton startup ‘Stashii’ offers solution to parking woes

There are other cities the review is looking to. Buffalo, New York is an example. Stevenson said it’s not vastly different from what we have now, but was the first city to get rid of minimum parking.

“We’re really keen to explore how they came to that decision,” she said. “It’s just come out, but to talk to them about what that process was like and what that looked like for them.”

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“Everyone wants convenient parking. Everybody wants convenience,” Stevenson said.

“But when you start talking about that convenience costs you this, it costs you a more expensive house up front, or it maybe means fewer local businesses in your neighborhood. When you start talking about those trade-offs we found that Edmontonians were really receptive, and very smart about thinking about what they want and what would work in their communities.”

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Some of the rules are incredibly old, yet they’re ingrained in current bylaws. For instance outside churches the number of parking spots are dictated by the number of pews.

“Our current rate right now is one parking space for every four seats which is a nuclear family of four driving to a religious assembly on one day of the week. That’s built in to our current standards. So there’s a real opportunity to look at those, see if those stand up, do we need something different for our city? What’s happening now?’

In the fall city staff will do detailed work planning about what a comprehensive review will look like. Work won’t happen this year, but they’ll talk to stake holders, and communities to scope out what the project could look like. There’s even a chance this could become an election issue, depending on how much information is available when the campaign is on.

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