Daniel Hess informs debate on nagging issue for cities: parking

Downtown Buffalo

Using Buffalo as a case study, Daniel Hess proposes that on-street parking in neighborhoods located close to population centers and public transit could reduce the need for parking lots and garages. Photo: Douglas Levere

by Brenna Zanghi

Published December 17, 2018

UB urban planning professor and chair Daniel B. Hess is among a growing core of scholars at work on new research on a growing national issue: parking.

His findings are assembled in “Parking and the City” (Routledge, 2018), a recent book by UCLA urban planning professor Donald Schoup.

According to Schoup, recognized widely as national expert on urban planning and policy related to parking, the issue is a bit of a nagging one for cities. In addition to a relative dearth of research, it can be difficult to isolate the relationship of parking infrastructure – from parking garages and lots to on-street parking – to urban development.

Hess’ article, “Repealing minimum parking requirements in Buffalo: new directions for land use and development,” which was originally published in the Journal of Urbanism, examines policy innovations implemented as part of Buffalo’s form-based zoning code.

In 2017, with the ratification of its “Green Code,” Buffalo became the largest U.S. city to completely abandon off-street parking requirements in specific neighborhoods and urban centers. There was a surprising lack of opposition from business owners and residents. The policy is based on the premise that parking demand can be met by on-street parking in areas where parking demands are low.

According to Hess, Buffalo’s on-street capacity is high in many neighborhoods, including those located close to urban centers and public transport.

Hess says the strategy has the potential to reduce the cost of urban housing. Off-street parking accommodations – particularly below-ground parking garages – can add as much as $10,000 to the cost of an average housing unit.

In addition to the elimination of off-street parking requirements, Hess recommends that on-street parking charges be right-sized to account for maintenance and infrastructure costs to the city, and that such revenues to dedicated to improving public services on metered streets.

Schoup himself contributed to Buffalo's parking policy debate back in 2010 as UB's Clarkson Visiting Chair in Planning. During his residency at UB he discussed reform of parking requirements with local planners, who were enthusiastic about making a change.

“Parking and the City” has received wide critical acclaim, and was recently named among the top 10 urban planning books of the year by Planetizen.