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Parking Minimums – Boring But So Important
“Hey who wants to talk about Parking Minimu….zzzzz”
Parking Minimums. Can you even hold the words in your head without having the urge to check Instagram? What are these boring parking minimums and why do they matter?
Ever since a time when councillors were called aldermen and TV had three channels, if you build a new building or start a new business, you are required, forced, to reserve spots on your land for the cars that will most (!) certainly (!) (in a dry English accent!) drive to the new destination you have created. After all, there are free parking spots provided at great cost to the public on the street, and if the law doesn’t force everyone to put parking on their private land, said street parking might be ever so slightly harder to find.
Scenario: Sally buys a piece of land in the middle of the city (think McCauley). The home is next to a major bus route. She works downtown, doesn’t own a car, and plans to walk, bus and take the occasional taxi year round for all trips. It’s a small older home, and she would like to develop a basement suite in the basement for her father, who also doesn’t drive. As the law currently stands, the state will intervene in her affairs and force her to develop two parking spots on her property. That’s right, two parking spots for zero cars.
Parking minimums are absurd, wasteful, sprawl-causing monsters. They waste land, subsidize cars, and reduce green space.
The USA has 3 – 8 parking stalls for every one of its motor vehicles (I don’t know why I say cars anymore, most of these are trucks), and Edmonton is most certainly in the same boat. In fact, I double dog dare you to find a window within eye shot that you can’t see some parking from. Am I right? Sit down Kevin you’re in a treehouse in Laos right now but everyone else is in Edmonton looking at a bunch of parked SUVs.
Parking minimums cause carbon emissions by:
- Encouraging driving. The easier it is to find free parking, the more people will drive. Full stop.
- Paving over green space. Instead of parking spots, we could have trees or grass or gardens or anything that grows in soil and sequesters carbon.
- Making carbon-efficient urban living more expensive. When the state forces households and businesses to build parking, it makes everything more expensive, but the effects are more severely felt in dense areas where space is at a premium (because of a higher cost of land generally, and the need to build underground parking, which is absurdly expensive).
- Creating a less walkable and bikable city. The sea of parking surrounding so many buildings are unpleasant to navigate, create larger travelling distances, and are not human-scaled.
Parking minimums are some of the worst urban policy every created. They have acted as an invisible force, creating large dead spaces that reduce urban vibrancy. Enough.
We Can Eliminate Parking Minimums This Month
On January 28, city council is making a decision on parking minimums. There are three options on the table, and only one of them is the right one for the climate:
- Full Implementation of Open Parking Option (no parking minimums anywhere, as of now)
- Phased approach to Open Option Parking (a slow, phased-in approach to abolishing parking minimums)
- Zone-based Parking Minimums
The most climate-friendly option is #1, Full Implementation of Open Parking. There is no reason except for irrational fear to phase it in (option 2), and option 3, keeping parking minimums, would be grounds for a climate sit-in. I don’t think council will go with #3, but there is some talk of them choosing the very “Edmonton” phased-in option (#2).
We’re in a climate emergency here, we need some courage from city council.
Please, act on climate today. Use the email tool below to send your councillor and the mayor a quick message (personalized is best so if you can, add your own note).
- When: 12:45 – 1:15, December 2
- Where: City Hall Steps
- What: See the Carbon Budget Counter and show your support for strong climate action from city council
Edmonton’s Carbon Budget Counter is ticking. Fast. It symbolizes Edmonton’s huge impact on climate change and begs the question: what are we doing about it? And how urgently are we acting?
Climate Action Edmonton will host its first event on December 2nd at City Hall. Join us as we unveil Edmonton’s Carbon Budget Counter to demonstrate the seriousness of the climate emergency and to illustrate the need for immediate action.
More about the Carbon Budget Counter:
In 2018, Mayor Don Iveson signed the Edmonton Declaration, (since ratified by over 4,500 mayors), that committed Edmonton to a carbon budget of 155,000,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent ,starting January 1, 2019. If we meet that commitment, we will be doing our share to keep climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That number is not something to celebrate, as any global warming is harmful, but it is at least manageable (as in, we may get to keep society).
155 million tonnes seems like a lot, but how much is it, really? As you can see in the banner of this web page, Edmonton’s emissions are enormous. Every 1.6 seconds, we emit a tonne of carbon dioxide. That’s 55,000 tonnes a day, or approximately 20 million tonnes a year. In fact, at the current rate, we are poised to use up and exceed our carbon budget in 7-8 years!
Edmonton city council has been and remains way too casual about climate change. After Mayor Iveson signed the declaration, city council declared a climate emergency in August. But very little action has taken place. Our road expansion plans are untouched, and one councillor has even started musing about cancelling the West LRT line!
Enough is enough. The city has shirked its responsibility for too long. The world is burning, the seas are rising, and people are suffering. We must act.
Show your support on December 2 at City Hall!
I spent the weekend attending a workshop about the city’s latest bike plan and browsing Twitter about Edmonton-based issues. You know, as normal people do. And two things happened that crystallized the state of the city and its administration in my mind.
Bike Plan Consultation (Boo!)
First the bike plan. The consultation was predictably disappointing. The plan presented to us had these very light dotted lines that represented bike “areas” (These are NOT proposed routes, they made sure to emphasize.) Other, solid lines on the map were supposed to be “existing routes”. When a few of us at my table pointed out that, in fact, a bunch of the solid lines are complete bullshit routes that are in no way acceptable, we were quickly hushed. It’s not time to get so specific, children. There will be some other time for that. We won’t tell you when that time is.
Furthermore, there was casual disinformation about bike share in Edmonton. Bike share “was tried in the early 2000s but was shown to be unsustainable” (paraphrase). Uh, what? In the early 2000s, Bike Edmonton made a heroic effort to create a low-tech bike share system entirely on their own dime. They cobbled together 30 bikes, stripped them of the valuable parts, painted them red, and then set up a few racks at which members could extract a bike key from a combination lock box. These “People’s Pedal” bikes were all stolen within a few months. Edmonton has absolutely not tried what is commonly known as bike share, the kind they have in most other cities in North America. If we had tried real bike share, it would have been a success, just like it has been in virtually every jurisdiction in the world.
The bike plan is being developed, yes, but it’s all very casual. And the city clearly does not want to increase bike riders with bike share.
Zoning Fail (Ugh!)
The second thing that happened is that the city tweeted out a bunch of rezoning applications that are headed to council this week. Two of them are to rezone properties from single-family to row houses. And administration indicated that it is against the rezonings! After all, they would add density in the middle of the city and increase the tax base without increasing servicing costs.
Here’s an example of a modern row house by the way:
The bylaw that makes row houses illegal in most of Edmonton is based on a 1960s and 1970s (racist) view of the world, one in which people with less money were to be kept out of “good” neighbourhoods. It is completely at odds with a vision of urbanism that is attractive, healthy for its residents, and energy-efficient.
In one weekend I saw two discouraging examples of complacency at the city. Just plain old lethargy. There’s no hurry, there’s no rush, there’s no sense of emergency.
4,000 people marched in Edmonton’s streets in September. Then 10,000 came out in October. There is a climate emergency and the kids are rising up. Many of us oldies are too. But the city is completely aimless and insulated. When city managers saw the demonstrations they somehow didn’t think it applied to them.
Something needs to be done. And it will be Climate Action Edmonton’s first big move.
A Climate Change Omnibus Bylaw For Edmonton
The climate movement has exploded unto the Edmonton scene over the past year, and while the energy has been intense, the political ask at the local level has been modest. To my knowledge, the only concrete ask that the climate movement has made of city council was for it to declare a climate emergency in August of 2019. And sure enough, administration is strutting around as if everything is normal and okay.
comprising several items.
“Congress passed an omnibus anticrime package”
An omnibus law is a collection of laws (or bylaws in the city’s case) that is passed in one fell swoop, solving multiple problems at once.* Edmonton city council should pass an omnibus climate change bylaw in fall 2020. It would address the (relatively) quick, easy wins that can start to bend our emissions curve downward. As you may remember, Edmonton emits 55,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per FUCKING DAY, AND IT’S AN EMERGENCY.
The 2020 Climate Change Omnibus Bylaw would take quick action, and it would set the stage for a massive push in 2022, when the next capital budget is passed by city council.
Climate Action Edmonton will hold a series of events in early 2020. People from around the city will be invited, including the Beaver Hills Warriors, Extinction Rebellion Edmonton, and Climate Justice Edmonton. Together, I hope that we’ll design Edmonton’s 2020 Climate Change Omnibus Bylaw.
Then we’ll ask Edmonton City Council to pass it.
*This is the optimistic take. In my lifetime, omnibus bills have been used by right-wing governments to hide bad things that they’re doing.
The most optimistic scenario for mitigating climate change is to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. In order to achieve this, though, the world would need to undergo “unprecedented changes“, and Edmonton would need to cut its emissions by 80% in the next 10 years to do its part. As I discussed here, we have 155,000,000 tonnes of carbon equivalent left in our carbon budget, and Edmontonians emit 55,000 tonnes every day.
In August of this year, administration put forth a report that shows the scope of the challenge. Here’s their first pass at what it would take to make major gains in reducing our emissions ( it doesn’t actually reduce our emissions to the needed 3 tonnes/person by 2030):
Here are the above “wedges” in table form: Continue reading
There are some great people working at the city. (Too many of them don’t have enough power, but that rant is for another time.) Some of those great people prepared and presented a report to city council on August 27 of this year.
Who wants the world to heat up 1.5 degrees or less? If so, then to do our part, our emissions per capita in Edmonton need to drop by 80% in the next ten years.
The scope of the challenge is enormous. Put another way, Edmonton has a remaining carbon budget of 155 million tonnes. And we emit about 55,000 tonnes per day. (😫) I’ve put a counter at the top of this website. We need to make that thing slow down.
City council made one motion for admin to make a plan by late next year (eating up 10% of our time), and another to create an “interim report” (no timeline specified) with actions that can be taken before said plan is introduced.
Next post: what will the plan look like and what can we, Climate Action Edmonton and its supporters, do about it?
It’s October 2019. I’m a 45 year-old white male living in Edmonton, Alberta, and life’s been pretty great for me so far. I was born and raised in Alberta, went to university (after some, shall we say, “poor decisions” as a young man), and got a great middle class job in my chosen field of IT. I married the best person ever, and we’ve been lucky to raise two healthy kids in the wonderful city of Edmonton. Our city, province and country have given us so much opportunity.
But I’m really scared. I remember when I first learned about climate change. I was the kitchen, age about 14, and I read a small article in the Edmonton Journal (children, once it was more than just a corporate mouthpiece – really!). This feeling of anxiety settled in my chest. In the 31 years since, it has never really gone away.