Advocates of public transit like to tout the idea that it can lead to more development, higher property values and greater density around hubs. And in Orem, those benefits are already taking shape, even though the transit itself is still unfinished.
According to my colleague Genelle Pugmire, Orem just approved zoning modifications to allow a new five-building apartment complex near the city’s intermodal hub. The development will be located near UVU and will be “transit oriented.”
The changes the city council made to the zone to allow the complex involved lowering the number of required parking stalls because of FrontRunner and bus service, allowing different landscaping and eliminating the requirement for shuttle service to Utah Valley University because of bus service.
The lowering of parking requirements — which is a great start but of course not a sufficient end point — is particularly noteworthy. From the developers’ perspective, it means the ability to construct more revenue-generating housing units with less wasted space. This project consequently offers an obvious message: cities looking to attract development should relax antiquated zoning law related to things like parking minimums.
The project also suggests that the market in Utah Valley is tending toward less parking, not more; developers are clearly banking on public transit to make up for fewer potential drivers.
There’s no reason a similar approach wouldn’t work in Provo; most of the city’s high density and student housing areas already are connected to public transit via buses, most of which will pass through Provo’s own intermodal hub and commuter rail station by December. So despite the historic support for parking minimums, very recent improvements in public transit have rendered them obsolete. The paradigm has shifted and though it may take time to explain that shift to the community, previously ill-conceived parking minimums are becoming increasingly absurd and hard to support.