By: Briana Bierschbach
Minnesota Daily
December 2, 2008

Parking in the City of Minneapolis may soon get more difficult for motorists, but easier for bicyclists.

A proposed amendment to parking regulations, proposed to the City Council this month, will allow future developments to provide fewer off-street parking spaces than they currently do. The amendment also seeks to increase bicycle parking in the city.

Most businesses currently have an off-street parking requirement of one space per 300 square feet. The amendment would reduce this requirement for most uses, to one space per 500 square feet.

Bicycle parking requirements could also change. The City currently doesn’t require bicycle parking citywide, but changes would require almost all newly established businesses to accommodate at least three bicycles.

Jason Wittenberg, planning supervisor for the city , said having more places to park bicycles will promote cycling as a mode of transportation and reduce pollutants.

“Hopefully providing bicycle parking will become second-nature ... in the same way that most businesses don’t think twice about providing automobile parking when constructing a new building,” he said.

Wittenberg said many of the changes stem from the Minneapolis Plan for Sustainable Growth, which was approved by the City Council in July 2008.

The plan seeks to promote transit, walking, and biking as transportation alternatives through reduced parking requirements, while encouraging transit incentive programs, according to city documents .

Rachel Weinberger, assistant professor of city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania, recently conducted a study in New York City on off-street parking by comparing two similar neighborhoods with one major difference — one has more off-street parking than the other.

According to the study results, residents in the neighborhood with more off-street parking were 45 percent more likely to drive to work, despite access to public transit.

“When you have that convenient level of parking available, owning a car is a much more natural choice,” she said. “And once you own it, well gosh, then you always use it.”

Weinberger said Minneapolis needs to be strategic about where it reduces the requirements for off-street parking. Focusing on areas near a light rail or around the University, where public transit is readily available, is a good idea, she said.

“You want to make it easier for people to come, but harder for them to come by car,” she said.

Current off-street parking regulations date back to 1963, when post-World War II communities were switching from street cars to cars, Wittenberg said.

Most cities adopted off-street parking requirements by the 1950s and 1960s to alleviate street congestion in the new “automobile-centric” society, he said.

But since then, things have changed, Second Ward council member Cam Gordon, said. Lately, many businesses have been applying for variances for fewer required parking spaces, and receiving them, he said.

“Fewer parking spaces seem to be working out for these places,” he said, adding that Minneapolis is moving toward getting people out of their cars and becoming a more transit-oriented city.

Business first-year Amy Wallender, however, is not enthusiastic about the idea of having less off-street parking in the city.

“We need parking,” she said. “Businesses are constantly expanding and it seems like we’re always looking for new parking.”

The proposal will go to the zoning and planning committee on Dec. 18 and to the full City Council by the end of the month for a final vote.