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People, Parking, and Planning:
Placing People Above Parking

September 28, 2023

(The following article is reprinted with permission of NJTOD.org.)

Downtown New Jersey, NJTOD.org, and NJ TRANSIT’s Transit Friendly Planning (TFP) Program, brought together professionals working in the public and private sectors to discuss the intricacies of parking in commercial districts and new residential projects, and the effects of the antiquated parking standards.  

While parking is often a necessary component of development and redevelopment, many New Jersey municipalities defer to the “one-size-fits-all” standards in their own zoning and the State’s Residential Site Improvement Standards (RSIS), which often greatly increases project costs or render them infeasible. Worsening climate and housing crises prompt a need to rethink parking standards. Panelists discussed current initiatives to update State and local parking standards including: 

  • A recently released study from the Rutgers Center for Real Estate that sought to capture data on parking utilization at residential properties in New Jersey 
  • Assembly Bill 4984 that aims to reduce parking requirements at residential developments in proximity to public transportation 
  • Creative parking strategies that municipalities have utilized to ensure development and redevelopment projects are feasible

pxl 20230928 160159534.mp Moderating the panel discussion, Zoe Baldwin, New Jersey Director at the Regional Plan Association (RPA) shed light on the gravity of the problem: there are 2 billion parking spots for 332 million people in the US. She explored the multiple ways this impacts the quality of urban life, making housing unaffordable, encouraging sprawl and a reliance on personal vehicles, increasing the risk of surface runoff, and severely hampering mobility for pedestrians and cyclists. The discussion also brought to light a study conducted by the Rutgers Center for Real Estate that captures real-time data on parking usage at 157 residential properties in New Jersey and reveals that parking is severely underutilized across various types of apartment buildings.

The panelists also explored ongoing efforts to modernize State and local parking standards.  Earlier this year, the State Senate passed Bill S3605, which proposes substantial reductions in parking requirements for transit-proximal areas. If enacted, the measure would significantly reduce parking requirements, with quality train stations or specific bus line numbers leading to a 50, 30, or 20 percent decrease. Read more about the bill here.

Beyond legislative progress, the discussion delved into potential strategies to increase utility from existing parking spots, including shared parking and effective pricing strategies, with panelists pointing to successful examples in New Jersey, like Metuchen, Rahway, and Hackensack. All panelists agreed that changing public perception around parking is key to any future advancement. Although parking remains inherently political, the paradigm shift in people’s attitudes toward driving since 2020 opens up significant opportunities for reducing parking in downtown, transit-friendly areas throughout the State.

The discussion was followed by a Q and A session, with practitioners sharing their experiences of navigating underutilized parking, devising innovative strategies to maximize utility from existing spots, and dealing with public perception around reducing parking. 

pxl 20230928 143848895

The TOD in Your Downtown Forum Series aims to advance efforts to implement TOD in New Jersey’s diverse communities by providing opportunities for practitioners and members of the public to gather and share experiences.

Panelists:

  • Jee Mee Kim-Diaz, City Executive, Arcadis
  • Kristen Mitchell, Director, TOD, NJ TRANSIT
  • Deb Tantleff, Founding Principal, TANTUM
  • Jim Zullo, President, THA Consulting, Inc.

Moderator:

  • Zoe Baldwin, New Jersey Director, Regional Plan Association

Approved for 2.5 AICP CM continuing education credits.

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