Media Release – Free Parking v. Sensible Cities

Press Release, Transportation, Frontier Centre

The Frontier Centre for Public Policy today released a study from Stuart Donovan, a transportation engineer and consultant, which called on Canadian municipalities to re-think their approach to mandated parking.

The Frontier Centre backgrounder, How Free is Your Parking?, notes that since the 1950s, transport planners have tried to estimate peak demand for parking based on the type and size of development–and then mandated parking lots and garages to meet that peak demand. However, by ensuring free parking is available at all times, parking regulations have had detrimental effects on economic development, undermined the transportation system, and come at a high cost to low-income households.

The study notes that the current approach to parking in many Canadian cities suppresses economic activity in several ways. Most importantly, it ties up large tracts or urban land, and that tends to increase the investment returns developers then need from the remaining land. "Parking is not free and that current regulations are not a good deal for municipalities, developers, businesses, consumers, or residents," notes Donovan.

For example, the Toronto Parking Authority estimates that parking costs between $20,000 and $40,000 in central part of Toronto. The result, in a new condominium development for example, is that two required parking spaces add an extra $40,000 to $80,000.

Instead of city regulations that require extensive and expensive amounts of parking, Donovan suggests cities allow the market to decide on how many parking spots are needed – and at what cost. A market-based approach to parking management is already working in cities in New Zealand, Brisbane, and North American, such as Portland, Oregon and San Francisco.

The result of more sensible parking management practices would be profound: New lifestyle patterns, services and technologies would become more widely available. Even minor changes in would contribute to far more liveable cities.

"Grasping the real and potential benefits of parking reform, as some overseas cities have already done, requires a shift in urban transport planning away from ‘predict and provide’ to ‘price and manage,’" writes Donovan. "This shift must occur, and the sooner the better."

The Frontier Centre backgrounder, How Free is Your Parking? can be downloaded here:


For more information and to arrange an interview with the study’s author, media (only) should contact:

Gary Slywchuk
Troy Media Corporation