Right Size Parking

Cities and real estate developers are rethinking the amount of parking supplied for buildings, campuses and districts as new methodologies and technologies allow managers to better match supply and demand. According to numerous reports, most zoning codes require parking oversupply, occupying land better used for more productive use.

Benefits & Problems Addressed

Efficient Land Use: Right sizing parking typically reduces the parking footprint, which supports more efficient transportation options such as transit use and active transportation. Right sizing can also relocate parking to areas with lower foot traffic.

Affordability: Building developers required to oversupply parking must invest large sums of money that could otherwise be invested in buildings and amenities. That investment is typically reflected in rents whether a tenant parks or not.

Congestion relief: Parking supply and pricing influences travel choices; low costs and ample supply favor a driving trip, adding traffic and the potential for congestion. Likewise, the search for parking often comprises 30% of circling traffic. New parking apps can identify and direct drivers straight to spaces.

Preparing for new technologies: Parking navigation apps are helping direct drivers to open spots, which can help reduce the view that there is not enough parking. Increasingly, cities are having to manage demand for curbsides as e-commerce deliveries and shared-use pick-up and drop-off vie for space allocated to on-street parking. Several cities (Somerville MA) are piloting automated, self-parking garage technology. Autonomous vehicles are widely expected to reduce demand for parking (though this will depend on several factors such as pricing and ownership models).

Tips & Techniques

Getting started: Identify drivers that lead to right-sizing such as parking hotspots, plan updates, and transportation/sustainability planning goals. Determine both support for, and opposition to, parking reduction. Conduct parking inventories to see if there is an actual parking shortage, mapping both public and private spaces.

Stakeholders: Traditionally, cities main role in parking have been (1) instituting minimum requirements zoning codes, (2) establishing enforcement and fee collection, and (3) providing public parking in lots, garages and on streets. With right-sizing, there are additional stakeholders: (1) parking technology companies, (2) affordability advocates, (3) Business Improvement Districts, (4) parking management companies, (5) Transportation demand Management, or TDM, programs and (6) Bicycle advocacy groups since right-sizing will include bicycles, scooters and motorcycles.

Making the case: Communities need to articulate clear goals for right-siting parking as well as trade-offs. In a positive manner, communities can paint a picture of big picture goals such as better placemaking, efficient use of public space, equity and affordability. Communities can also frame the negative impacts of parking-related traffic and congestion (up to 30% of parking is related to the search for spaces), the economic power of customers arriving by transit, bike and foot (drivers spent less in business district than customer arriving by other modes), and affordability (oversupplying parking adds thousands of dollars to development costs and by extension rents). Finally, whenever enacting new pricing, it helps to dedicate funds back to the district for improvements to make parking adjustments work.

Policies & Technologies: Some of the most powerful measures include: (1) Pricing strategies (dynamic parking based on supply and demand, unbundling the cost of parking from monthly rent, charging for parking by the day rather than by the month), (2) Parking technology (parking sensors to support navigation, reservation systems, and payment apps, parking space sharing apps), (3) shared parking, (4) removing minimum parking standards for new and redevelopment, (5) commuter incentives (guaranteed ride home, parking cash out, transit & biking incentives, (6) neighborhood parking restrictions and decals, and (7) Improved facilities for non-drivers (bike parking & showers, real time information, access to shared-use services).

Right sizing Calculators: Several cities are developing calculators that take into account the support system for non-vehicle owners. These include the King County WA/Center for Neighborhood Technology Right-Size calculator, and GreenTrip

Hot Buttons: Reducing parking can be hotly contested. Common opposition come from merchants (customer convenience), nearby neighborhoods (spillover parking), and developers (finance often relies on having more parking than needed). Right sizing parking requires investment in data (parking inventories) and sensors to monitor utilization rates. It also requires coordination with private parking providers and managers of public spaces and garages.


King County Washington Right Size Parking Home Page

Center for Neighborhood Technology Right Size Parking Page

Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) Perfect Fit Parking