Five Things to Know About Parking Minimums

and Why We Support BL2022-1412


UPDATE: Since this blog post was first published, BL2022-1412 passed Metro Council, removing parking minimums and instituting parking maximums on new developments in the Urban Zoning Overlay (UZO). Walk Bike Nashville thanks Councilmember Colby Sledge and the bill's 10 co-sponsors for their leadership on this issue. We also thank the many Nashvillians that supported this bill on social media, via email, and at public meetings. Thanks to your advocacy, Nashville is a more livable city. You can read the original blog post below:


Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

On Tuesday, November 15, there’s a bill before the Metro Council that would remove minimum parking requirements in the Urban Zoning Overlay (UZO). If passed, parking would no longer be required in new developments. In addition, the previous parking minimums would become parking maximums in the UZO. Many are wondering, what are parking minimums? Why do we have them? What would eliminating them mean for my neighborhood? In hopes of answering these questions, here are five things you should know about parking minimums: 


    1. Cities Across the Country Are Getting Rid of Parking Minimums

Parking minimums are a shortsighted approach to urban congestion that were enacted in the 1970s. Rather than managing and enforcing parking while promoting multimodal transportation, cities flooded the supply of off-street parking, mandating minimum parking requirements regardless of the form or location of buildings. This ineffective policy has created downtowns that are more accommodating to cars than people. Fortunately, cities across the country are reducing or eliminating parking minimums. According to Strong Towns, over 200 American cities have corrected this policy and Nashville can be next.


    2. Parking Minimums Are Extremely Expensive

Surface parking spots cost $5,000 to $10,000 to construct and the average spot in structured parking lots costs $25,000 to $50,000, according to City Observatory. Parking costs are passed on to residents through housing costs, directly impacting the supply of affordable housing. According to UCLA professor Donald Shoup, a third of all land is dedicated to parking in America’s urban cores. Often, parked cars are utilizing only a quarter of available parking at any given time. By providing excess parking in our cities, we sacrifice affordable housing, greenspace, and walkability.


    3. Nashville Removed Downtown Parking Minimums Several Years Ago

Some fear that removing parking minimums will reduce parking supply overnight. Nashville, however, is not new to this concept–minimums were removed along multimodal corridors in the UZO in 2020 and in the downtown core before that.

Photo courtesy of the Metro Planning Department.

    4. This Ordinance will Maximize Land Use

Parking minimums regulate all types of developments equally, wasting precious space and resources. Instead, replacing minimums with maximums will slowly reveal the true cost of parking and allow the city to maximize its land use by building housing, retail, and greenspace where parking would previously be required. Parking maximums ensure we build parking where it’s appropriate and incentivize walking, biking, and public transit where it makes the most sense.


    5. You Can Do Something About It

Metro Council will have its final vote Tuesday, November 15. The ordinance has broad support, but a few council members remain undecided. If you agree that this bill is a step in the right direction, email your council member. Tell them to VOTE YES on BL2022-1412 removing parking minimums. If you would like to learn more, or are willing to share your council member's position, reach out to [email protected]. Removing parking minimums is an important step in making Nashville more walkable, bikeable, and livable.

Blog post written by Wesley Smith.