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Posts from the Parking Category


Comparing the Price of Parking Across U.S. Cities

This article was cross-posted from City Observatory

How much does it cost to park a car in different cities around the nation?

Today, we’re presenting some new data on a surprisingly under-measured aspect of cities and the cost of living: how much it costs to park a car in different cities. There are regular comparisons of rents and housing costs between cities. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports on regional price variations among states. But the price of parking falls into a kind of unlit corner of the statistical world.

Parking is central to the operation of our automobile dominated transportation system. There are more than 260 million cars and trucks in the United States, and most cars sit parked about 95 percent of the time.

It isn’t free, in any sense of the word. (Flickr: reflexblue)

It isn’t free, in any sense of the word. (Flickr: reflexblue)

While we have copious data about cars—the number registered, the number of gallons of gasoline they burn (over 140 billion), the number of miles they travel (over 3 trillion)—we actually know precious little about the scale of the nation’s parking system.The best estimates suggest that there are somewhere between 722 million and more than 2 billion parking spaces in the United States.

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White House: Make Cities Affordable By Building for Walkability, Not Parking

The Obama administration is taking on the crisis of rising rents in American cities, releasing a series of recommendations today to spur the construction of more affordable housing. Among the many ideas the White House endorses: allowing more multi-family housing near transit and getting rid of parking minimums.

Rising rents are putting pressure on American families. Graph: White House

Rising rents and stagnant incomes are putting pressure on American families. Graph: White House

Since 1960, the share of renters paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing — the baseline for what is considered “affordable” — has risen from 24 percent to 49 percent, the White House reports in its new Housing Development Toolkit [PDF]. There are now 7.7 million severely rent-burdened households, defined as those paying more than 50 percent of their income for rent — an increase of about 2.5 million in just the past 10 years.

In the toolkit, the Obama administration acknowledges the links between housing and transportation, saying that “smart housing regulation optimizes transportation system use, reduces commute times, and increases use of public transit, biking and walking.”

The toolkit is full of policy recommendations to make it easier to build multi-family housing, incentivize the construction of subsidized housing, and shift away from the single-family/large lot development paradigm.

The document is merely advisory — federal officials don’t have the power to supersede most local zoning laws. But the White House does say that U.S. DOT will evaluate cities’ approaches to new housing development when it considers awarding major grants for new transit projects.

Here are a few of the highlights from the recommendations.

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Highlights From Park(ing) Day Around the Globe

Today is Park(ing) Day — a day to demonstrate how scarce street space can do so much more than store parked cars. Around the world, people are setting up camp in parking spots and turning them into public spaces.

Here are some of the fun and creative installations we’ve come across on social media. Just for fun, vote for your favorite at the bottom.


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Carless Renters Forced to Pay $440 Million a Year for Parking They Don’t Use

Many residents of American cities can’t escape the high cost of parking, even if they don’t own cars. Thanks to policies like mandatory parking requirements and the practice of “bundling” parking with housing, carless renters pay $440 million each year for parking they don’t use, according to a new study by C.J. Gabbe and Gregory Pierce in the journal Housing Policy Debate.

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

The financial burden works out to an average of $621 annually per household, or a 13 percent rent premium — and it is concentrated among households that can least afford it. “Minimum parking standards create a major equity problem for carless households,” said Gabbe. “71 percent of renters without a car live in housing with at least one parking space included in their rent.”

Parking is typically bundled with rent, making the price of residential parking opaque. So Gabbe and Pierce set out to estimate how much people are actually paying for the parking that comes with their apartments.

Crunching Census data from a representative sample of more than 38,000 rental units in American urban areas, they isolated the relationship between parking provision and housing prices. They determined that on average, a garaged parking space adds about $1,700 per year in rent — a 17 percent premium.

Looking only at carless households, the average cost is $621 per year and the premium is 13 percent. On average these households earn about $24,000 annually, compared to $44,000 for the whole sample, and they get no value whatsoever out of the parking spaces bundled with their rent.

Gabbe and Pierce estimate that nationwide there are 708,000 households without a car renting an apartment with a garaged parking space, for a total cost burden of about $440 million per year due to unused parking.

So how can parking policy create fairer housing prices?

Gabbe and Pierce say cities should eliminate minimum parking requirements to make housing more affordable. Cities can also help by allowing and encouraging landlords to “unbundle” the cost of parking from the cost of rent — so people who don’t have cars aren’t forced to pay for parking spaces they don’t use.


Oslo Gradually Removing Parking From Central City as It Phases Out Cars

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

Another European city is setting its sights on ridding the urban core of cars.

The City Council in Oslo, Norway, has approved a plan to remove cars from the central city by 2019. As part of that plan, parking spaces will be replaced by bike infrastructure.

Liv Jorun Andenes, who works on bike projects with Oslo’s agency for the environment, told Streetsblog via email that the city is planning to remove 1,300 spots over the next three years. In their place, eight bicycle routes will be added. In addition, 500 spaces will be eliminated to make room for pedestrians and transit. 

This City of Oslo map shows the locations of the proposed cycleways.

Proposed Oslo cycleways

The parking phase-out began this spring. “It’s going well,” Jorun Andenes says, “but of course we are receiving a few complaints from residents who are losing their free parking spot.”

The city expects to hear more complaints when 100 parking spaces are removed from a wealthy part of town later this year. That accounts for about 2 percent of Oslo’s parking supply, according to local news sources.

Ridding the central city of cars is part of a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent, according to the Guardian. The city hopes to reduce auto traffic by 20 percent by 2019 and 30 percent by 2030.

Madrid and a number of other places in Europe are considering similar plans aimed at returning central cities to people.


Park & Rides Lose Money and Waste Land — But Agencies Keep Building Them

Transit agencies shell out big bucks to build and operate parking facilities. But how much do we really know about what they get for their money?


The surface parking lot at WMATA’s Branch Avenue station. Photo: TRB

Researchers Lisa Jacobson and Rachel Weinberger surveyed 37 American transit agencies about park-and-ride facilities. They found that despite the expense of park-and-rides and the fact that many spaces go unused, most of the 32 agencies that manage parking are still planning to build more of it.

Here are six big take-aways from their recent report, published by the Transportation Research Board [PDF].

1. Most transit passengers don’t park and ride

People who park at stations account for about 22 percent of total ridership across the 32 agencies that offer park-and-ride facilities. Even looking only at commuter rail and express bus service — the two modes closely associated with park-and-rides — most passengers don’t use parking. For commuter rail, 41 percent of passengers park and ride, and for express buses the figure is 30 percent.

2. Many park-and-ride lots don’t come close to filling up even at peak hours

Even during weekdays, park-and-ride lots are, on average, only 65 percent full. The authors say this “would be considered underutilized based on parking industry standards,” meaning a private company with so much empty parking stalls would consider doing something else with the land.

“On average, this sample of transit agencies has approximately 155,000 unused parking spaces on any given day,” the report states. That’s about a square mile of empty parking.

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Americans Can’t Afford the High Cost of Parking Requirements

Prices for garaged parking space construction. Graph: Access

Americans are paying off the cost of parking construction whether they can afford it or not. Chart: Access Magazine

Building a single parking spot can easily cost more than many Americans’ life savings. In the latest issue of Access Magazine, retired UCLA economist Donald Shoup brings this point home to illustrate the huge financial burden imposed by minimum parking requirements, especially for poor households.

The average construction cost of structured parking, across 12 American cities, is $24,000 for an above-ground space and $34,000 for an underground space. (Surface parking spaces are cheaper, but keep in mind those prices don’t include the cost of purchasing land.) Those costs get bundled into the price of everything, driving up the cost of living even for people who don’t own cars.

The burden of parking requirements, which mandate the construction of parking spaces that otherwise wouldn’t be built, is most acute for people of color.

In 2011, the average net worth of Hispanic households was $7,700 and of black households was $6,300, Shoup notes. Thanks to parking requirements, households without much savings — many of whom have more debt than assets — must contend not only with the cost of parking construction, but the cost of car ownership as well, writes Shoup:

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A Sunday Afternoon in the Land of Parking Craters

Created by David Lindsay, of Memphis

Pointillism simulation by David Lindsey

Ah, a relaxing day at the park — in modern America.

This spoof on Georges Seurat’s iconic painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” was produced by Memphis activist David Lindsey. The inspiration: Memphis now directs overflow parking from the Memphis Zoo to the city’s historic Overton Park, despite vigorous local opposition. A pair of lawsuits are currently pending.

Here’s a look at the parking-crater-in-a-park, courtesy of community activist Leigh McCormick.

parking lot


Social Engineering! Cities That Build More Parking Get More Traffic

Cities like Hartford that added a lot of parking over the last few decades saw driving rates increase. Graph: McCahill/TRB

Cities like Hartford that added a lot of parking over the last few decades saw driving rates increase more than in cities where parking volumes stayed flatter. Graph: McCahill/TRB

Build parking spaces and they will come — in cars. New research presented this week at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board finds a direct, causal relationship between the amount of parking in cities and car commuting rates.

University of Wisconsin researcher Chris McCahill and his team examined nine “medium-sized” cities — with relatively stable populations between 100,000 and 300,000. They compared historical parking data with car commuting rates beginning in 1960, finding “a clear, consistent association” between parking levels and car commuting that has “grown stronger” over time.

Using an epidemiological research method, McCahill’s team determined that the relationship was causal. For example, data indicated that increases in parking tended to precede growth in car commuting.

The study brings home the point that by inflating the parking supply via minimum parking mandates and other policies, cities are leading more people to drive and making conditions worse for transit, biking, and walking. It’s what you might call “social engineering.”

Researchers compared five cities with low car commuting rates (Arlington, Virginia; Berkeley, California; Silver Spring, Maryland; and Somerville and Cambridge, Massachusetts) to four cities with relatively high car commuting rates (Albany, New York; Lowell, Massachusetts; and New Haven and Hartford, Connecticut).

McCahill and his team found that for every 10 percentage point increase in parking spaces per capita, the share of workers commuting by car would be expected to increase by 7.7 percentage points. So if a city increased its per capita parking from 0.1 spaces to 0.5 spaces, car commute mode share would rise about 30 percentage points.

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New Philly Mayor: Politicos Can No Longer Park on the City Hall Sidewalk

Politicos in Philadelphia will no longer be allowed to use the entrance to City hall as their personal parking lot. Photo: City Hall Parking Lot Tumblr blog.

Big shots in Philadelphia city government will no longer be allowed to use the sidewalk by City Hall as their personal parking lot. Photo: City Hall Parking Lot Tumblr

The Jim Kenney administration is off to a promising start in Philadelphia. One of the mayor’s first acts in office was to end the thoroughly obnoxious practice of letting government honchos park on the sidewalk “apron” around City Hall — a public space.

There was a Tumblr dedicated to chronicling this highly visible abuse of government privilege. And ending the practice was on the wish list of urbanist political action group the Fifth Square. During his campaign, Kenney, a former council member, promised to get the cars off the sidewalk.

On Monday — his first day in office — Kenney said his administration would begin enforcing the long-ignored rule against parking on the apron.

“It’s public space, and should be used as public space,” a spokesperson for the Mayor told Philly Magazine.

Jon Geeting of Plan Philly told Streetsblog that while the value of this change is mostly symbolic, it’s still very encouraging.

“There’s a lot of politician entitlement around being able to park directly next to City Hall,” he said. “I think it’s sort of refreshing that Kenney’s setting the tone early that that’s not going to be the way he operates.”