With a combined population of nearly 725,000, the Twin Cities region is now the largest metro in the U.S. to introduce the progressive reform. The smaller communities of Buffalo
both made the move in 2017, and hundreds of other
smaller municipalities have eliminated minimums in designated districts.
Here are four lessons on how they did it, from some of the advocates and city officials who were most instrumental in the effort.
Make parking policy personal
The residents of the Twin Cities didn’t simply wake up one day and decide that parking minimums needed to go. Instead, they were convinced by advocates that parking reform could be a useful tool in accomplishing a range of other community goals — especially when it came to ending climate change.
“You can approach parking reform from so many angles,” said Chris Meyer, an early proponent of the issue in the region. “Historic preservationists connect with it because of how it creates neighborhood character, affordable housing proponents like to talk about how it increases the housing supply, conservatives can make a market case for it…But in central cities like ours, the best angle to target is climate.”
Meyer was among the many Twin Cities advocates who recognized that the region’s greenhouse gas reduction goals simply couldn’t be met without addressing how free and cheap car storage incentivizes driving. With the help of then-council aide (now-Rep.) Ilhan Omar, he helped the 13 members of the Minneapolis City council to make that connection in 2015 when he gifted each of them a copy of Donald Shoup’s seminal book The High Cost of Free Parking —
an easy self-described “stunt” that he encourages other advocates to borrow in their own towns.
(If your region’s campaign finance laws restricts you from giving gifts to candidates, Meyer recommends making yours to the council person’s office, rather than the elected him, her, or themself.)