Champaign Faces an Unusual Objection to Less Parking: It Will Make the City Too Nice
Last week the college town of Champaign, Illinois, joined an increasing number of cities that have relaxed parking requirements on new residential development. The idea in Champaign, as elsewhere, is that removing these “parking minimums” will encourage affordable housing and discourage car-reliance. Developers who don’t have to build costly parking lots or garages can lower rents, and tenants who don’t have access to a free space will be more likely switch to mass transit or other alternatives.
Opponents of such moves usually say they worry that drivers who don’t have spots in their building will just compete for street spaces and increase traffic. It’s an understandable objection (if often misguided, since most cities have way more parking than they need, and proper pricing can keep the George Costanzas of the world from cruising for street spots). But it wasn’t the one Champaign planners got.
Instead, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign “respectfully opposed” the measure on the grounds that sites around town would suddenly become more attractive to private developers. Such sites — current parking lots the clearest example — would never pencil out into profitable building projects under the old rules, but became instantly viable without parking requirements. That bothered the university, which hoped to buy the sites on the cheap as the campus expanded.