Photo credit: Nick Stanley on Flickr https://flic.kr/p/e9gKuq CC-BY-NC-ND

A potential game-changer for downtown Kitchener

Kitchener’s exemption from parking requirements for the first 10,000 square metres of floor space could drive a surge in walkable, transit-friendly, and affordable development downtown – without every new building needing to be a massive tower.

We’ve written at length about parking minimums found in the City of Waterloo’s zoning bylaw review. But the City of Kitchener is also updating its zoning bylaws, and we finally have a draft of their parking requirements. And while parking minimums aren’t exactly abolished, they’re a big step forward.

Embedded directly within the draft parking standards are provisions for shared parking spaces – for instance, an office building and a place of worship might have different peak times of use, and could probably share a lot of their parking. These rules acknowledge that without a developer needing to apply for a special exemption.

Generally, the car parking requirements are less onerous than those of Waterloo’s draft bylaw, but are greater for bikes. Outside of downtown and ION station areas, residential units only require 1.1 parking spaces each, compared to 1.5 in Waterloo, offices require just 3 spaces per 100 square metres compared to 4, and retail 3.4 instead of 4.  Bike parking for residential developments are about on par with Waterloo’s, but quadruple to 1 bike space per unit in downtown and station areas. For non-residential uses, Kitchener would require significantly more bicycle parking than Waterloo.

Parking maximums would also apply, not just in transit station areas, but across the city. These would be about 20-40% above the minimums.

The big game changer though, is found in this clause:

In a UGC-1, UGC-3, or UGC-4 zone, an exemption from the parking spaces required in Table 5-3 may apply up to the first 10,000 m2 of gross floor area of buildings on a lot for non-residential uses, and up to the first 100 dwelling units for residential uses.

Essentially, new or repurposed buildings downtown that have less than 10,000 square metres of floor space, (or fewer than 100 units), would see no parking requirements at all. Considering that structured or underground parking costs $20,000-50,000 per space, this could greatly reduce the cost of new development and consequently, housing. It could also lead to blocks with more active frontages, since there would be less need for driveways or garage entrances if a developer opts for no parking at all.

This change will open the door to transit-supportive density, without the need for every building to be a massive high-rises. Instead, the rules favour small and medium-sized buildings that require no parking.

Take action:

To comment on the proposed zoning bylaw changes, attend one of the public drop-in sessions on June 22 or 28 (City Hall, 4-8pm), or visit the Consolidated Review of the Zoning Bylaw website.

Photo credit: Nick Stanley on Flickr, licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND.

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Parks, parking, trails, and trains

Lots of changes are happening in your community, and you have a chance to influence them. Here are some upcoming public consultations you might want to participate in:

Waterloo Park Promenade

Map of Waterloo park and consultation locationThe City of Waterloo is continuing to seek input on the central promenade through Waterloo Park, part of the Laurel Trail. There are two opportunities for input:

  • Today (May 3) from 3:30-7pm near the Laurel Creek bridge
  • Online via Engage Waterloo May 3-17

Wilson Ave bike lanes

City of Kitchener staff are looking to build cycling facilities along Wilson Ave from Wilson Park to Homer Watson Park, as part of the city’s cycling route from Cambridge to downtown. They’re currently working on plans for lanes from Wilson Park to Fairview Park Mall. (The section of Wilson south of Fairway Road will require changing the road configuration and will form part of an upcoming Environmental Assessment.)

A public consultation is taking place Wednesday May 4, 7-9pm at Howard Robertson Public School, 130 Morgan Ave. Stay tuned for more detail on the plans, and how to give feedback.

Uptown parking study

The City of Waterloo is conducting a study to figure out what its parking needs will be for Uptown over the coming years, and develop a financial model for parking. Currently, overall parking use peaks at just 60% of capacity, (even on-street parking), meaning that we devote more space to parking than we actually need today.  The price of parking also has a significant impact on the transportation choices people make.

Initial feedback can be given on Engage Waterloo from May 2-11.

Rapid transit station planning

Station area planning is intended to update the zoning, design of streets, and amenities to support increased growth and better walkability around ION stations.

Kitchener

Kitchener’s Central station area plan (Market, Frederick, Queen, Kitchener City Hall, Victoria Park, Central Station) has just been reviewed by the Planning and Strategic Initiatives Committee. The Midtown and Rockway plans (Grand River Hospital, Borden, Mill) are just beginning, with a public meeting happening Thursday May 5 at 6:30pm in the Victoria Park Pavilion.

Waterloo

Waterloo released its draft plan (~30MB pdf) for light rail station areas last week, and will be hosting an open house public consultation Thursday May 12 from 3:30-7pm at the Memorial Rec Complex.

stationplans

Iron Horse Trail

The Region is planning some new water infrastructure in Kitchener and Waterloo, and are eyeing part of the Iron Horse Trail as a preferred route for a new water main. Construction could disrupt the trail for several months in 2017 or 2018, but could also be coordinated with planned trail upgrades as part of the Iron Horse Trail Improvement Strategy.

If you want to learn more or have feedback for the Region, there will be two public consultations:

  • Tuesday May 17 from 5-7pm, Region of Waterloo Public Health, 99 Regina St S
  • Thursday May 19 from 5-7pm,  St. John Catholic Elementary School, 99 Strange St

Transit hub

You’ve probably seen the King Street grade separation begin to emerge in downtown Kitchener. The Region will be holding an open house on the King & Victoria Transit Hub on Thursday May 19 from 4-8pm in Regional Headquarters, 150 Frederick Street, Kitchener.

Zoning

Waterloo is reviewing its zoning bylaws. We’ve had lots to say about parking policy in the draft bylaw, but also want to make you aware of how you can talk with staff about what you’d like to see. There are a couple of drop-in sessions at City Hall where you can meet with staff and ask questions:

  • Tuesday May 3, 3:30-5:30pm
  • Tuesday May 24, 3:30-5:30pm
  • Tuesday June 7, 3:30-5:30pm
  • Tuesday June 21, 3:30-5:30pm

 

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stationplans

Potential changes to parking for Uptown and around ION light rail

The new draft Station Area Plans for light rail in the City of Waterloo suggest applying maximum parking requirements in transit station areas, as well as deeper parking reductions in areas closest to stations. Meanwhile, the city is undertaking a parking utilization study in Uptown, with an eye towards possibly beginning to charge for parking. (more…)

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parking-multi-storey-car-park

The future of parking in Waterloo

Part 7 in our series on parking in the City of Waterloo draft zoning bylaw.

There’s an old joke that says, the trouble with parking is that it isn’t going anywhere.

If you read the City of Waterloo’s draft zoning bylaw, you might think they took the joke literally. But will we always need parking, especially copious amounts of it? What will the future bring?

We’re on the cusp of some pretty major shifts that will greatly alter how we get around and consequently, how much parking we’ll need. (more…)

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OGS Parking Lot

Shared parking, reducing the burden on local businesses

Part 5 in a week-long series on parking in the City of Waterloo draft zoning bylaw.

Commercial zones could foster thriving businesses and walkable places if we avoid burdening them with too much parking.

Of all the zoning types, commercial can be the most flexible. For most commercial zone categories, you can build retail, restaurants, office space, places of worship, and even apartments and condos. Over half of these categories in the City of Waterloo’s draft bylaw have the words “mixed use” as part of their name. (more…)

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Photo by Radcliffe Dacanay - https://www.flickr.com/photos/kworth30/2271118974/

Bigger parking lots for new workplaces?

Part 4 in a week-long series on parking in the City of Waterloo draft zoning bylaw.

Is Waterloo’s proposed zoning preventing workers and their employers from reaping the benefits of rapid transit?

The zoning bylaw review seems to drastically increase the amount of parking that “employment lands” will require. In a time where our region seeks to reduce congestion and sprawl by enabling commuting by other means than driving, it seems that the city of Waterloo is ready to force employers to build more empty parking spaces.

Minimum parking for industrial malls stands to increase by 20% [1]. Single occupant buildings, if large enough, could see their parking requirements triple! [2] While the old bylaw might have envisioned large warehouses and factory floors, the new rules clearly have offices in mind. Space-intensive industrial tenants may need to look elsewhere.

The good news is that Waterloo plans on applying reductions to parking in certain areas like major nodes and major transit areas. The bad news is that the baseline requirement will be raised first, so a reduction of 30% near transit stations is actually a modest 16% from the old rate. Meanwhile new developments in the rest of the city must build more mandatory parking than before.

The Northfield Station development, placing parking next to an LRT stop

The Northfield Station development, placing parking next to an LRT stop

Much like with residential parking, the additional cost of extra parking on employment lands must be borne by the employer. The presence of extra parking will serve as a powerful incentive for driving, even when it is unnecessary, and will be discourage employers from offering parking cash-outs or alternative benefits (such as free transit passes) to reduce their parking needs. These reduce the chances their employees will do anything but drive.

By raising minimum parking requirements for employment lands, the City of Waterloo could be undermining a host of measures designed to give people more transportation choice, and  increasing the space and costs for employers to locate in Waterloo. Ultimately this could result in more drivers on the road at rush hour.

Take action:

Write to the Zoning Bylaw Review staff and your city councillors, and share your concerns about parking requirements for workplaces in the City of Waterloo’s next zoning bylaw.

Editor’s note: This post is part of a blog series on parking requirements in the City of Waterloo’s Zoning Bylaw Review. Read the other articles in this series:

[1] Existing industrial parking rate: 2.5/100m^2 floor space.  New employment parking rate: 3.0/100m^2 floor space

[2] The existing rate of 2.5/100m^2 applies to the first 1000m^2 of space. A reduced rate of 1.0 applies after that, eventually dropping to 0.75 for space beyond 5000m^2. The new rate of 3.0 appears to be a flat rate.

Photo credit: radcliffe decanay on Flickr, (c) 2006. Licensed under CC-BY.

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A failing grade in parking requirements

Part 3 in a week-long series on parking in the City of Waterloo draft zoning bylaw.

Update: we have heard that  staff have admitted an error in the draft bylaw and are reviewing the proposed parking requirements for schools.

Kids can’t drive. So why should schools need more parking than a shopping mall?

The current City of Waterloo zoning bylaws require 2 parking spaces per teaching area when a new school is built. But the proposed draft bylaw changes up the formula, requiring 4 parking spaces for every 100 square metres of floor space, plus an extra 5 spaces for visitors parking [1], which is more than what the City requires of Conestoga Mall. (more…)

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parking deck

Housing and parking minimums – or why the rent is too damn high

Part 2 in a week-long series on parking in the City of Waterloo draft zoning bylaw.

The City of Waterloo’s current and proposed zoning bylaws require significantly more parking for apartments and townhomes than what is needed, raising the cost of housing.

If you live in a house, odds are your family owns two cars, and you’re almost guaranteed to own at least one. But if you live in an apartment, a quarter of you own no car at all, and few of you own more than one. (more…)

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