When cities reform their parking requirements, they often implement new rules reducing or waiving on-site parking based on a new project’s proximity to transit. But, just like ratios that came before them, these rules seem arbitrary and based on gut feeling rather than any real evidence.
In some cities, the ratio is based on proximity to bus stops, in others it’s how close it is to the street where the bus runs. In some cities 351 feet is too far away to waive parking requirements, in others 501, and in others 1321 feet. Some cities treat light rail different than buses, others allow a waiver for planned transit. In most cities the bus or transit needs to run frequently enough for the site to qualify for a waiver, but “frequent service” means something different everywhere you go.
Proximity based rules like this are a lazy way to make reforms. A map of areas that qualify for a waiver in Portland, Oregon shows voids in the waiver area that are walkable, bike able, transit rich neighborhoods full of amenities, but just a couple steps outside an arbitrary boundary. Meanwhile, areas with wide streets, few sidewalks, and strip-mall development patterns are in the waiver zone because a light rail stop happens to be 1/4 mile away.
Such mobility based rules rarely account for bike networks, walk-scores, or bike-share amenities. Frequency rates are often based on commute times to city centers, only, discounting the idea that people might want to work near where they live so they don’t have to drive or take the bus.
While these reforms are better than nothing, the one-off problems they cause aren’t worth the trouble. Developers will build parking if their projected tenants will demand it. If cities are managing their on-street parking, there’s no free lunch for anyone and there’s no need for an arbitrary rule telling people how far they can walk to a bus before they’re forced to pay for parking whether they use it or not.