|Living space vs parking space (graphing parking)|
|Off-street minimum parking requirements for various neighborhood districts|
A few notes: these requirements only apply to as-of-right development which is not subject to Large Project Review. They can also be superseded by Planned Development Areas. Each neighborhood zoning code seems to have its own way of wording things, so I've simplified a bit. These requirements only apply to normal or "other" residential development (not elder housing, etc). Some codes categorize by "1-3 units", others by "1-4 units" and others not at all. So I've settled on "1 unit", "5 units" or "10+ units" as intermediate samples.
As you can see, much of Boston suffers from higher minimum parking requirements, particularly on multi-unit buildings. I find it quixotic that larger multi-unit buildings have to comply with even more onerous parking requirements, when typically such buildings would be found in densely populated areas close to transit. I suspect that this forces most larger buildings into Large Project Review in the process of receiving variances. It's also the case that the zoning code does not distinguish between a studio and a 3-BR apartment when it comes to parking requirements. How many people living in a studio really need 2 parking spaces? Probably a very small percentage, if any.
It's pretty appalling that the North End is subject to any minimum parking requirement at all, considering that at least two-thirds of the residents do not have a car. By contrast, the South End and Bay Village have at least reduced that to 0.7 and do not require any parking for small projects.
The way Allston is lumped together with Brighton with very high minimum parking requirements is another example of bad zoning. In fact, the neighborhood boundaries don't make sensible planning areas here at all, due to geography. The sections of Allston/Brighton within a few blocks of Comm Ave -- from Packard's Corner to Cleveland Circle -- are almost all densely populated, with low car-ownership, and high transit use. Requiring 2.0 parking spaces per unit there is simply insane, and out of character with the existing built environment. I happen to know that the people who worked on this particular neighborhood code largely live in the suburban outer reaches of Brighton, and it was wrong to impose their schemes on Allston and Comm Ave.
Roxbury, South Boston and Mattapan only require 1.0 per unit even though they are less densely populated than Allston. Roxbury has a lower car-ownership rate than average, Mattapan is about average, and South Boston is higher than average. I don't know how they arrived at these decisions. But it all seems pretty arbitrary, which is a terrible rationale for a regulation that increases housing costs and decays neighborhoods.
The BRA should really revisit all of these codes and revise downward or outright eliminate any minimum parking requirements. Most of them are 20 years old. A lot has changed in the way people think since the early 90s. The minimum parking requirement is a measure intended to subsidize parking in the city, to force everyone to pay for an amenity that only some may use. Nowadays we recognize that adding parking creates traffic, that it reduces opportunity, raises housing costs, and deadens neighborhoods. There's no good reason to subsidize it; the market is perfectly capable of supplying parking to meet demand, and it should be treated as just another land use. Even places where car-ownership is high do not need minimum parking requirements: why would developers build something that they couldn't sell? Nobody expects to be given a free 200 square feet of floor space for any other use, and I don't see why parking should be the exception to that.