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.

Despite the emphasis on mixed use in the draft bylaw, it misses the opportunity to consider shared parking arrangements, as an office, a retailer, and an apartment building may have peak parking demands at different times of day (or day of the week [1]). Kitchener, for example, allows developers to determine reductions in parking for mixed use developments if parking can be shared.


A study of Uptown shopping habits by researchers at UW found that 70% of survey respondents arrived by transit, bike, or on foot. High parking requirements do not make sense here.

Mixed use development can also further reduce parking by having different needs met closer together – if the store is just a short walk from home, that’s one less car trip to have to accommodate. A variety of businesses close together along a sidewalk create an engaging walkable environment. If enough attractions are in one place, growing parking demand can be managed with pricing – people will still find ways of getting there. But high parking requirements can work against making zones truly mixed use and walkable, if to meet demands, the various destinations are at the far ends of a big parking lot.

If Waterloo wants to encourage entrepreneurs and small businesses to set up shop and thrive, we should be careful that parking requirements don’t exceed our needs and become an expensive burden to provide, and worse, hinder customer foot traffic. Especially when there are so many opportunities to share parking and create spaces where more people can choose to walk.

Take action:

Write to the Zoning Bylaw Review staff and your city councillors, and ask more sensible requirements that factor in the ability to share parking 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] Consider for a moment the case of a place of worship built on or next to a commercial zone. ‘Spiritual uses’ have extremely high parking requirements (8 spaces per 100 square metres of floor area – that’s about 2 square metres of parking and driveway for every square metre of building), but even though it might only be occupied on weekends or the occasional evening, instead of sharing with an adjacent office building that was only busy during weekdays, it would be required under the zoning bylaw to have its own parking lot.

Photo credit: Andy Arthur on Flickr, (c) 2011. Licensed under CC-BY.