Recent maps of parking amenities in Winnipeg and Detroit got me thinking: what does downtown Edmonton’s current parking situation look like? Predictably downtown Edmonton is peppered with offsite parking. The vast majority of this supply is made up of mostly unwalkable, unsightly, dust devil generating surface parking. Admittedly, some parking is probably crucial to an active, vibrant core. But is downtown Edmonton’s parking supply to a point where it is choking out other key factors of activity and vibrancy?
To provide some context for how we got to this point, in the 1950s, the City of Edmonton was concerned that the downtown was deficient in parking supply. Deficiency in parking was viewed as a threat to economic activity downtown. Peter West, a local urbanist, notes, “There was panic with the rise of the automobile when street design and engineering was viewed as completely inadequate. New shopping centres such as Westmount offered vast free parking which was blamed when downtown businesses slumped. Parking was totally chaotic save for a handful of parking garages.” In 1952, a Downtown Parking Survey was conducted. Some of the key findings included the following:
- 31% of people traveled to the downtown by car – predictably, this was expected to rise significantly with the provision of more parking facilities.
- There was a problem with private owners of off-street parking converting these amenities to other business uses. The report noted a further problem that no mechanisms existed to prevent such conversion.
- Downtown Edmonton’s total parking supply was 10,011 (5,896 on-street and 4,115 off-street).
- There was a net deficiency of only 65 parking stalls.
- The central area of downtown was the only area found to be net deficient in parking; all other areas were experiencing net surplus parking.
- The areas of net surplus were considered to be too far away to be of any benefit to central retail shoppers. This finding was made on the assumption that shoppers were only willing to walk 800 feet (or less than 250 metres) to access retail.
- It was recommended that 3,671 new off-street parking stalls be added to offset the deficiency, primarily in central downtown.
Comparing the two maps above helps to illustrate how Edmonton’s auto-dependent nature has evolved. If transit and active modes of transportation are truly priorities, as stated in Edmonton’s Transportation Master Plan, a serious review of the parking requirements in our central areas is needed. This is particularly important for our Transit Oriented Development corridors and should be done ahead of zoning and development applications such as the Molson/Crosstown development proposal. King County, Washington’s Right Size Parking Study provides a good model that could serve to inform a parking review in Edmonton.