10/21/23 - All for Parking, and Parking for All

Let's talk about parking. You love it, I love it. Our cars REALLY love it! If you ask 9/10 people on the street, there's never enough of it here in the city; it's impossible to find; and when they do finally find some, they can't figure out if they're even allowed to park there anyway.

So what does the new code do about parking? What did the 2034 plan say about parking? Did Canandaigua and Buffalo really eliminate parking minimums and Rochester isn't (and is now making you spend thousands of dollars to justify skipping parking downtown)? Yes to that last one, so now let's spend the rest of this article trying to tidy up the first few questions.

Parking requirements are unchanged for the residential zones from the current code. Houses still require less parking than the equivalent apartments for no apparent reason, though with the addition of three and four family dwellings as their own types, the parking requirements for three or four 2BR apartments vs. three or four 2BR houses are now reduced by a space. Parking is still required to be on the lot for which the parking serves, and this remains a serious burden to using shared parking. Existing commercial buildings in residential zones are exempted from parking minimums, though these buildings lose that exemption if the building or the lot containing it is expanded. In a surprise twist, buildings with more than 20 units can automatically cut 20% of the required parking and still meet the minimum. For a 20 unit building of all two bedroom units, this would get you back to one space per unit. But the 2034 plan pretty strongly advocates for less than one space per unit being perfectly functional. It also strongly supports shared parking, a thing the new code does not encourage. That said, a twenty unit building is almost guaranteed to hit the threshold for the funnest new thing in the entire ZAP: the Transportation Access Plan (TAP). 


I was considering an entire separate article on TAPs, but I'm rolling them into this one big parking article that will surely put you to sleep before you find out how badly this breaks the entire system. I'm actually going to reproduce what a TAP is here in its entirety. I think the dual (and dueling) mandates of minimizing single occupancy vehicle trips while also not placing an undue burden on public transit is about as manic as two adjacent bullet points can get, but I'm just blogging about this code, not writing it.

15.2 Transportation Access Plan (TAP)

A. A TAP must be reviewed and approved per this section. No building permit or certificate of occupancy may be granted prior to approval of a required TAP.

1. A Transportation Access Plan (TAP) is intended to manage off-street parking demand and is required for development actions and uses described in Section 15.3.

2. When a Level A site plan review is required and a TAP is also required, the TAP will be approved as part of the Level A site plan review. If no Level A site plan review is required, the TAP will be approved as an administrative adjustment application.

3. An approved TAP may be modified through the administrative adjustment process.

B. In making a decision, the Manager of Zoning must assess the following performance standards:

1. The project includes performance objectives to minimize single-occupancy vehicle trips and maximize the utilization of transportation alternatives, taking into account the opportunities and constraints of the site, its location, and the nature of the development.

2. The project must meet the anticipated transportation demand without placing an unreasonable burden on public infrastructure, such as transit and on-street parking facilities, and the surrounding neighborhood.

C. Based upon the review and approval of the TAP, a parking minimum or a parking maximum may be established, reduced, or eliminated. Additionally, off-street parking may be required above that established by the parking maximum.

D. A TAP must be prepared by a qualified professional with demonstrated experience in transportation planning, traffic engineering, or comparable field. A TAP must include:

1. The anticipated peak-to-daily transportation demand for the project.

2. How the anticipated transportation demand for the project will be met on-site or off-site, including:

a. Number of off-street vehicle parking spaces to be provided.

b. Current on-street parking supply during the relevant times for project demand.

c. Any shared vehicle parking arrangements.

d. Number of bicycle parking spaces to be provided or are publicly available.

e. Transit options available to reach the site.

f. Available drop-off/valet accommodations.

3. The TAP strategies of item E below that will be employed to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips, reduce vehicle miles travelled by site users, and promote transportation alternatives such as walking, cycling, ridesharing, and transit.

4. How the TAP strategies listed in 3. above will be implemented.

E. TAP Strategies

TAP strategies may include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. Walking, cycling, ridesharing, and transit promotion and education.

2. Employee parking cash-out programs.

3. Unbundled parking, where parking spaces are not included as part of the purchase or rental of a dwelling within a residential development.

4. Shared parking arrangements.

5. Enhanced bicycle parking and services above the minimum required.

6. Support for car-share and bike-share services and facilities.

7. Carpooling or vanpooling programs or benefits.

8. Free or subsidized transit passes, transit-to- work shuttles, or enhanced transit facilities (such as bus shelters).

9. Provision for alternative work schedules (i.e., flextime, compressed work week, staggered shifts, telecommuting).

10. Promotion of “live near your work” programs.

11. Roadway improvements adjacent to the site that will help encourage transportation alternatives.

12. Designation of an on-site employee and/or resident transportation coordinator.

That's a bunch. And it's all subject to public comment from your neighbor about how they disagree with your highly paid, credentialed engineer about how free bus passes will reduce your need for parking. Interestingly, none of the TAP strategies include targeting carless tenants in a city where 25% of all households don't own one. While TAPs come highly recommended via the 2034 Plan, it leaves open the thresholds for requiring one, and I think that's where things really break down.

So when does a developer need to spend the money to have a TAP written (unlike an Alternative Parking Plan in the current code, which you can write by yourself, the TAP requires a professional)? I'm going to duplicate that here, too, but let me also boil it down for you - nearly everything will need to spend thousands of dollars on a TAP. Only small residential projects in residential zones and small commercial projects won't need them. More importantly, this effectively eliminates of-right projects in the city. I'm honestly shocked. Also, despite a few dozen pages of definitions in the code,  low-occupancy use, a thing between you and thousands of dollars of report and an angry neighborhood vehemently disagreeing with it, is undefined. But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, there are no parking requirements in non-residential districts. OPA!

3. Required Transportation Access Plan

A Transportation Access Plan (TAP) is required for the following:

a. Any place of assembly, per the New York State Building Code, such as bars, restaurants, gymnasiums, reception facilities, arcades, and theaters, with an occupancy posting of more than 75 people.

b. New developments of 20,000 square feet or more of gross floor area. The Manager of Zoning may waive the TAP requirement based on a low-occupancy use.

c. Within a nonresidential district, a three-family, four-family, multi-family dwelling, short-term rental, or mixed-use development with a residential component that is located within 150 feet of an LDR or MDR District.

d. Any development that proposes to exceed any established parking maximum.

e. Development or redevelopment of the following uses:

i. Hospital

ii. College/University

At this point you might be thinking, "He must be done with parking regulations by now..." But you would be wrong... 

...Dead wrong, because now we're going to talk about electric vehicle chargers. All new construction will require them! Any lot under 20 spaces needs at least 1, under 40 spaces needs 2, and it's 5% of all spaces rounded down from there. They're only required to be level 2 chargers, I guess to keep costs from being completely insane? This is a critical misunderstanding of how electric car chargers are used, though, and having them at every Family Dollar in town isn't about to do anything for electric vehicle adoption. Electric car chargers at offices and at multi family residential seem pretty useful. Everywhere? Less so. We don't mandate gas pumps everywhere.

Ok, let's wrap this up, I have other things to do... Like talk about required Bicycle Parking! OK, I'm down for required bicycle parking - what do we got? All new buildings and additions exceeding 2,500sf require bicycle parking. That would suggest a 2,600sf townhouse would require bicycle parking, but the only 2 guidelines for required bicycle parking are multi-family and nonresidential over 10,000sf (so what, exactly, is an 8,000sf nonresidential building supposed to do? It's required to have bicycle parking, but has no requirement for bicycle parking - mind: boggled). Multifamily dwellings require a long term, inside-only bike parking space for each unit (to go along with the kinda-sorta required parking space for each unit; remember the TAP requires you to go above and beyond required bike parking to justify not providing vehicle parking). Nonresidential requires only short term, outside-is-fine bike parking. These short term spaces have some interesting requirements about being 50 feet from the principal building entrance, which seems very doable in some cases, and very less doable in others, but here we are. Finally, and quite richly, the city is exempting itself from having a bicycle parking requirement in Open Space districts, as well as businesses in Industrial and Regional Commercial zones, all three of which I disagree with vehemently. And I'm not alone, because part of the climate action plan in 2034 is for the city to continue installing bike parking facilities in city owned lots.

Ok, now we're nearly done. I'm going to save you having to hear about townhouse parking or RV parking again, but know that it's all in there, too. There are also standards for parking garage design, which are mostly boring, except for the requirement that active uses on the first floors of them be deeper than a parking space, thus greatly complicating their provision in any meaningful way that doesn't break the spacetime continuum. Honestly, whatever. We could be banning new parking garages, too, and I wouldn't lose any sleep either. We're not, though.

One final, tiny, meta bit. Thanks to my grueling pace of producing smarmy content, I think I will be wrapped up my roast of the ZAP before the first public meeting on November 8th, so be sure to come to the Edgerton R-Center prepared.