Canada: Municipal Car Reduction Strategies

Last Updated: March 15 2018
Practice Guide by Siskinds LLP

Municipalities are starting to focus on finding ways to reduce the pollution, traffic congestion, and other urban issues caused by an overabundance of cars on municipal streets.

There are many strategies available to municipalities looking to reduce the volume of cars using their infrastructure.

Often, municipalities implement programs to make it more expensive for cars to drive on city streets. Municipalities are also introducing improved public transit options and better infrastructure for bikes.

In addition to these kinds of initiatives, municipalities are also looking for ways to reduce the presence of parking spaces as a means of getting cars off the roads.

At one time, the plentiful availability of parking was considered a necessity to city planners. Particularly in North America, since the 1950s, municipalities have generally required developers of commercial and residential properties to provide a specified number of parking spaces in their plans in order to obtain building permits.

Municipalities are now beginning to recognize that parking that is too cheap and too readily available does more harm than good to the city fabric. For one thing, it consumes valuable space that could be used for revenue-generating development and the creation of vibrant public spaces and parks. An abundance of parking, while convenient for drivers, provides no aesthetic appeal, little social value, and does nothing to attract visitors and businesses to a municipality.

And of course, there is the contribution that cheap, readily available parking makes to the volume of cars on the roads. When parking is scarcer or expensive, people are more likely to leave their cars at home. In this way, parking directly and indirectly contributes to the environmental costs associated with driving, including pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

To reduce parking spaces, as a first step, municipalities can consider abandoning the practice of requiring developers to build a specified number of parking spaces in order to obtain development permits. Municipalities can also consider requiring drivers pay the true cost of parking by incorporating costs such as lost revenue, pollution, and climate impacts into the price of parking. Municipalities can also limit the number of available spaces—including those that developers are required to build with new projects.

In implementing any strategy, proper collection and analysis of data is crucial both towards developing the right policies and creating the necessary buy-in from the public. This information can be used to respond to public concerns about possible parking shortages and to engender support for plans that involve the reduction of spaces.

This document is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. You should not act or rely on any information in this document without first seeking legal advice. This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have any specific questions on any legal matter, you should consult a professional legal services provider.

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