City planners encourage conversations on parking through new paper

Screenshot of the new paper The Power of Parking: A New Parking Paradigm for Kingston?

The City of Kingston has opened up a new public conversation about parking with the release of a new Discussion Paper entitled The Power of Parking: A New Parking Paradigm for Kingston?

According to a release from the city, the Paper, now online, starts and supports an important new public conversation about how parking powerfully affects every aspect of how the city is built. It includes big, strategic new ideas that could lead to a potentially very different approach to how parking is regulated in the City’s upcoming new Zoning By-Law. A followup public meeting will be held on Wednesday, Jun. 23, 2021.

“We need this candid, new conversation across our city about the critical role that parking plays, and more specifically our parking regulations play, in the success or failure of our vital public interest goals,” said Paige Agnew, Commissioner, Community Services. “The goal is to change the way everyone looks at parking in our city.”

Agnew said this process has been ongoing for several years and the city is in phase three right now. “We’re getting ready over the next month to release what will be the second draft of the city’s new comprehensive Zoning Bylaw and parking forms a very large part of that conversation because it’s so important,” she said.

Brent Toderian of Toderian UrbanWORKS, and co-author of the paper, along with Agnew and Laura Flaherty, Project Manager, Planning Services for the city, shared a digital presentation with local media, highlighting the important aspects of this paper, and underscoring the role parking plays in addressing the climate change emergency and housing affordability in Kingston.

“The usual challenge with talking about parking, in Kingston or in any city, is that such conversations are usually really boring, overly technical and over-complicated, plus almost entirely disconnected from the city’s larger visions and goals,” Toderian said.

He feels this paper better breaks down and explains the effects of parking, and how to approach it from a more sustainable, and affordable, way.

According to Agnew, the paper is meant to fundamentally change the way we discuss and plan for parking as a city. “It helps to connect the dots in a really significant way with respect to other city goals, and it frames parking in a new strategic forward thinking way that looks at different approaches that have been happening across the country,” she said.

Some aspects of the paper are also very Kingston-centric, such as the struggle builders have with our bedrock foundation being so close to the surface, increasing the price of building below grade parking structures.

Something the organizers stressed repeatedly during the presentation was that this is simply the beginning of a large, city-wide conversation, sharing ideas and potential planning issues well ahead of any concrete changes that may occur in 2022.

“We’re not at a decision point so we’re bringing up new ideas as part of this discussion paper and conversation to get feedback on before we move forward with new standards in the Zoning Bylaw,” Agnew stressed.

Each speaker mentioned this paper examines the “true cost of parking,” including the many public costs and consequences of providing too much parking. For example, too much parking significantly raises the cost and reduces the affordability of housing; actually encourages more car ownership and driving; significantly increases the GHG emissions and pollution from both driving and building construction; and makes designing better streets and neighbourhoods with more choices for people much harder.

“When we talk about cost of parking we tend to think and focus on how much it costs per hour to park a car, but the true cost of parking is shockingly expensive, it’s often and almost entirely hidden,” Toderian explained.

He went on to say that everyone pays the costs of parking in a city. “The developers start paying for parking when they design and construct, but that’s just the start. Everyone else pays indirectly,” he continued. “We have residents who pay higher housing prices, both rental rates and the amount it costs to purchase a home because of parking. We have consumers paying higher prices for goods and services. We have employers paying higher office rents and employees paying through corresponding lower wages. We have property owners that have their land values reduced because of the parking requirements. We have taxpayers who are paying either more in taxes or receiving less services, because of this effect that parking in terms of municipal finances.”

Toderian concluded his section by stating, “Kingston has a rare leadership opportunity to be a real inspiration to a whole scale and vintage of other cities across Canada around rethinking how we do parking.”

Laura Flaherty, echoed Toderian’s sentiment. “We want to directly ‘connect the dots’ between parking and those big important city goals for the first time, and discuss innovative new ideas and options, learning from and potentially inspiring cities across Ontario and Canada, in a simple and easily understandable way.”

Although the Paper doesn’t make final recommendations, changes or decisions, presenters said it does start the discussion on important ideas like reducing or even eliminating parking minimums; creating parking maximums to prevent the creation of too much parking; using parking incentives to achieve smart, strategic outcomes like better and more secure bike parking, carshare spaces, and electric vehicle plug-in infrastructure; and creating a new framework for accessible spaces while ensuring accessible parking isn’t reduced.

“There are few things we could do as a city that would have a bigger effect on whether we achieve Council’s strategic priorities than reconsidering how we do parking. Priorities like the City’s goal to become ‘the most sustainable city in Canada,’ addressing Council’s Climate Change Emergency Declaration, and supporting the affordability recommendations from the Mayors Task Force on Housing,” said Agnew.

On Wednesday, Jun. 23, 2021, at 6 p.m. a public meeting to discuss the paper and any related parking questions and concerns will be held over Zoom.

“The idea is to try to give people as much time to digest this information which is why we put the paper out three weeks in advance of the meeting,” Agnew said of yesterday’s publication of the paper.

The city planners hope the public will ask questions and participate in the discussion at the June 23 meeting.

“We’re looking for feedback that any members of the public have related to parking,” said Flaherty. “No feedback is wrong. Anything that the public feels is relevant and connected to what we’re looking at doing through the new zoning bylaw project, we’re certainly looking for that type of feedback. No comment or idea is too small, and we want everyone to feel welcome and invited to come out and participate in the public conversation.”

Flaherty also said that questions and comments can be sent to the city in writing, via email or over the phone as well. The meeting will be live-streamed on the City’s YouTube channel, and will be available to watch afterward. Learn more on the Planning Committee webpage and read the 152 page document on the City’s website. Residents can also share questions and comments online at Get Involved Kingston.

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