New developments in St. Paul will no longer be required to include parking spaces.

After more than two years of research and planning, the city became one of a handful in the country to eliminate parking minimums after a 6-1 City Council vote Wednesday. Local leaders say the change will make it easier to build in the capital city and will incentivize residents and visitors to ditch cars in favor of more environmentally friendly transportation.

"This is a smart policy. It's a forward-thinking policy," Council Member Rebecca Noecker said during the virtual meeting. "It's good for the environment. It's good for small businesses."

Council Member Jane Prince, who cast the lone opposing vote, said she would have supported a measure to reduce St. Paul's minimum parking requirements to meet the city's climate goals. But the neighborhoods she represents on the city's East Side have fewer public transportation options and bike lanes, making residents more reliant on cars, she said.

"Before we start talking about the sort of magic of getting people out of their cars and into transit, we need to look at the very inequitable service differences that exist in this city," said Prince. She suggested the council reconsider eliminating parking minimums if the east metro Gold Line and Rush Line bus rapid transit projects are completed in the coming years.

A letter from the Highland District Council's Transportation Committee also recommended the council reduce minimums instead of eliminating them, citing concerns "about increased parking on residential streets and unintended negative consequences."

Some residents echoed these worries in e-mails to the council, but dozens more urged members to approve the change to encourage sustainability and increase flexibility for affordable housing and small businesses.

St. Paul and many other cities instituted parking minimums in the 1950s to avoid congestion on public streets. Developers were required to build a specific number of parking spots for new buildings based on their size and purpose.

Under the new rules, developers will still be able to build parking if they choose. However, the policy includes "travel demand management" strategies that require or encourage developers to promote alternatives to driving by providing bike parking, subsidized transit passes or other amenities.

The Minneapolis City Council passed a similar measure eliminating its parking minimums in May.

In St. Paul, where city planners said more than a third of land area is primarily devoted to the purpose of moving and storing cars, changes will take effect 30 days after Mayor Melvin Carter signs the measure.

"Our rapidly growing population demands forward-facing public policy," Carter said in a statement Wednesday. "This simple step will help add much needed housing and jobs as we seek to maximize this period of historic economic expansion in St. Paul."