Training Wheels for Walkable Neighbourhoods: Why We Need Transitional Parking

The news is out and people are getting excited. We can move from car-dependence to WALKABLE NEIGHBOURHOODS! Most of us can keep our cars, but we won't be needing to use them as much. New infill can meet density goals set by City Planners without building infill that's out of scale with our neighbourhoods.

Density increases can be a WIN for neighbourhoods, allowing them to be walkable! But this new way forward can't happen over night. There will need to be a transition from car-dependence to walking (density should mean more people, not more cars). It's like learning to ride a bike. You can't just jump on a bicycle for the first time and go for a ride!


It's time for Walkable Neighbourhood Training Wheels. Our existing neighbourhoods depend on cars (and space to park them) like a toddler depends on those extra wheels. So as we jump onto the two wheeler, let's not forget the training wheels, or we won't be going anywhere!

"...transitional parking must be provided one way or another, or our existing neighbourhoods will not and cannot receive significant amounts of new density in ways that allow a transition to walkable and complete neighbourhoods."

Let's explain. Walkable Ottawa has a pretty clear vision for what our neighbourhoods could look like once they are fully walkable, with existing homes that can keep their parking and new homes without parking. But it's just not possible yet for a developer to sell or rent new homes without parking spaces in neighbourhoods that aren't yet fully and delightfully walkable. And if it can't be sold or rented, it won't get built. And if it doesn't get built, our lovely walkable future will remain a pipe dream.


We still live in a car culture, especially in Canadian cities. Most still express the need for a car (rightly so), and won't feel they can do without a car until a neighbourhood is truly walkable. They would therefore want and need parking where they live. Like the chicken and the egg scenario, one of these has to come first. That's why transitional parking provides a short term solution until our need for cars is diminished.

Let's try that again with training wheels. What if the developer were permitted some parking for the new residents; parking that would 'time-out' once the neighborhood was fully walkable. Now the development is a go. Now our walkable future can be constructed in brick and mortar.

"Training wheels aren't for keeps, in fact they are clumsy and awkward. But they sure are important!"

And what criteria would we use in designing this temporary parking... these training wheels for walkable neighbourhoods? Transitional parking should take up as little space as possible, should be just gravel (it's temporary after all), and should not damage existing trees or take the place of new trees.

So rear yard parking is absolutely out, because it requires a very long driveway to a backyard used almost only for parking. Street permit parking is best because it doesn't require any more space or paving, but it only works in neighbourhoods with wide lots and widely spaced driveways.

Short driveway parking is a good idea -- parking pads on gravel driveways that are half on city road allowance and half on private property. Very simply these are driveways that are just one car length long. They must be spaced out so that there is room for trees between. And they would time out, unless they were used for shared cars or accessible parking.


"Transitional parking should take up as little space as possible, should be just gravel... and should not damage existing trees or take the place of new trees."

Neighbourhood parking lots are also a good option. They work well if a developer has purchased 3 or 4 lots in one area, and develops them bit by bit, using one lot for parking until car use subsides and the parking lot can also be redeveloped.

What's most important is that transitional parking must be provided one way or another, or our existing neighbourhoods will not and cannot receive significant amounts of new density in ways that allow a transition to walkable and complete neighbourhoods.

While this kind of parking will come and then go, much of the parking we have today will remain into the future.

Training wheels aren't for keeps, in fact they are clumsy and awkward. But they sure are important! Like training wheels on a bicycle, transitional parking is a stepping stone to the enjoyment of a walkable neighbourhood.