A trend towards less vehicle ownership and fewer people driving has prompted Metro Vancouver officials to recommend caps on how many parking spaces are built into new apartment and condo buildings, particularly those near public transit.
A survey by Metro staff found strata buildings have 18 to 35 per cent more parking stalls than are actually required by residents – a vast waste of unused space.
"Young people are delaying getting licences and are purchasing fewer vehicles," said Janet Kreda, a senior housing planner at Metro. "It's not just because of the recession, but a longer term trend. It seems we're driving cars less and owning cars less."
Kreda noted the number of registered vehicles in Metro Vancouver has declined and membership in car-sharing services is growing rapidly.
In line with the driving trend, the new Metro Vancouver Apartment Parking Study suggests cities set a maximum of one to two stalls per strata condo (depending on number of bedrooms) for buildings that are within 800 metres of TransLink's Frequent Transit Network, where transit service is guaranteed every 15 minutes or less.
And it suggested a lower cap of one to 1.5 stalls per rental apartment near transit, on the basis that renters are less likely to own vehicles.
The study also suggests visitor parking be cut from a typical two stalls for every 10 units to just one.
Other recommendations include more steps to promote car-sharing and encourage developers to sell units without a parking stall to buyers who can forgo a car to save money.
But Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, Metro's regional planning and agriculture committee chair, said the findings are out of step with the political reality on the ground.
"All of us in our communities will be beaten over the heads with your recommendations," he said.
Corrigan said street parking is already heavily congested in many dense neighbourhoods across the region and putting less parking into new developments would worsen the problem.
Too many people would forgo a stall to save $20,000 or more but then join the battle for scarce street parking because they want a car after all, predicted Surrey Coun. Linda Hepner.
"In Port Coquitlam, that dog wont hunt," added Port Coquitlam Coun. Brad West. "We hear consistently from people that there's not enough parking in new developments."
Richmond Coun. Harold Steves said three major developments have been rejected recently in his city because of neighbours outraged about the potential parking impacts from the increased density.
"This is the number one issue," he said.
The committee directed Metro staff to strip the report of any suggestion the findings constitute "guidelines" to local cities.