Visualizing America’s Absurd Parking Requirements

The black rectangles represent the amount of space required for parking in proportion to 10,000 square foot office buildings (represented by the blue rectangles) in different U.S. cities. Image: ## Goodman at Click to enlarge.

Architect Seth Goodman is on a mission to illustrate the absurdity of parking requirements. The above image, showing mandatory parking requirements for office buildings in different American cities, is one of three infographics he created to show the extent to which American cities mandate the construction of parking.

The worst offenders in the office category were San Jose, Albuquerque and Austin (though Austin recently eliminated all parking minimums downtown). Goodman notes that the majority of U.S. cities exempt their downtowns from these requirements, but he says that’s not enough.”In many of these cities, the relatively small footprint of these exempt areas has failed achieve the critical mass necessary to create robust transit ridership and fully-functioning pedestrian oriented communities.”

Goodman has created two other infographics that explain different cities’ parking requirements for residences and restaurants. The below comes from his examination of residential parking requirements.  You can see that for two-bedroom apartments in U.S. cities, the median parking requirement consumes more than half as much space as the dwelling itself:

Image: ## Parking##

Here’s how Goodman explains the pernicious impact of residential parking minimums:

Nearly every municipality in the United States requires a minimum amount of on-site parking at every residential development. The enormous cost of constructing this parking is hidden from buyers and renters alike because the costs are bundled into the price of each unit. Minimum parking requirements deprive residents of the full benefit of choosing other modes of transportation because they are compelled to pay for parking whether they use it or not. Often people who cannot afford to buy their own car are forced by city governments to have their own parking.

All that parking also consumes an enormous amount of space. Depending on the efficiency of the layout, each space requires between 300 and 400 square feet when aisles and ramps are included. Minimum parking requirements make sprawl inevitable rather than the result of market forces.

Goodman is working on two additional infographics: one will explore parking requirements at high schools, and another will look at places of worship. He tells us he gathered the information for all of these charts from city websites. Once he wraps up the five infographics, Goodman said he will move on to examining “arguments for changing off-street parking minimums rather than continuing to document their prevalence.”

In the meantime, be sure to check out and share his infographics. You might learn something about your own city.

19 thoughts on Visualizing America’s Absurd Parking Requirements

  1. Places of worship are special in that people drive there even when there’s nowhere to park. Apparently God is OK with double parking! But didn’t Jesus say something about respecting Caesar’s parking regulations?

    Something that doesn’t seem to be accounted for in the infographics is that the inhabitable parts of the buildings (apartments, offices, etc.) are often multi-story even when the parking is not. That skews the actual land use even more drastically towards parking.

  2. Subterranean parking is not the same as an above grade apartment with windows. Zoning codes forbids residential units from being built without windows. We should focus on eliminating street parking and forcing it all underground, rather than forbidding private parties from building secure underground parking (as San Francisco has done, resulting in chaos and unsafe bicycle routes). Regulating maximum parking limits only serves to discourage the re-purposing of streets for non-parking uses.

  3. Underground parking is fine, as long as the cost is unbundled – so buyers can choose whether or not they want it. We shouldn’t “force” it underground – it should be buyer choice.

    Once that cost is transparent, I think we won’t need nearly so much of it as is created now.

  4. I believe we SHOULD force it underground, because its existance at grade level imposes a tangible cost on everyone who is harmed (through increased crime, decreased property values, etc) by having tarnished streetscapes littered with parking garages rather than storefronts and residences.

  5. I agree. Parking garages, parking lots, and curbside parking are visual blights on the urban landscape. The sooner we eliminate them in favor of underground parking, the better.

  6. You keep pushing this like cars magically just appear in parking spaces. More parking creates more driving demand which creates more unsafe streets.

  7. It would be easier to reduce parking for churches, etc., if public transit served the neighborhoods. Often churches are built in or at the edge of a mostly residential area. These days, residents are less tolerant of large numbers of cars converging on their quiet streets. Of course, families don’t seem to mind driving to the park for a Little League game. Wonder how that goes down in the ‘hood?

  8. You keep ignoring reality. Prices affect demand. Some people want and/or need private transportation. By your logic, the means to eliminate disease would be to ban the construction of hospitals.

  9. There are three large churches in my neighborhood. All three of them have bus stops directly in front of the front doors. The furthest one away from the subway is *4* blocks (and, yes, the bus line runs from the subway there). Two of the churches are within 1.5 blocks of a parking garage that charges only $1/hour on Sundays. One of the churches has an arrangement with a shopping plaza less than one block away for the parishioners to park there, for free. Every single crosswalk, bus zone, fire hydrant, and residential street is packed full of vehicles (some double-parked) every Sunday. The main street, that two of the churches face (they’re about 6 blocks apart, total) is impassable. I’ve seen emergency vehicles stuck in church traffic (which has taken over 4 of 6 lanes on the main road), and not a single “good christian” hustles to move their illegally parked car out of the way so that an ambulance, lights and sirens, can get through. No, really, they just think they’re special.

  10. Maybe we should have the ITE repeal or replace their parking standards since that is what most parking ordinances outside of metropolitan areas are based on…

  11. Curbside parking is pretty important to walkable streets. It is way more comfortable to walk on a sidewalk with a buffer of parked cars between you and fast-moving cars than just a couple of feet from fast-moving cars.

  12. You could use planters, bollards, jersey barriers, fences, trees just to name a few possible solutions. The fact is rows of parked cars are a major eyesore, as well as a hazard to street users. Cars backing into parking spots, drivers exiting their cars, and cars cruising around looking for spots create both congestion and cause collisions. Curbside parking is a stupid idea which should end as soon as possible. Have a few loading zones for delivery vehicles but other than that keep the curbs clear of motor vehicles. Use the newfound space to either widen sidewalks or add bike lanes or bus lanes. If cars must park, the best place is in underground garages. That actually removes one of the benefits of car travel-namely the ability to park right in front of your destination. The less attractive and convenient car travel is, the smaller the number of people who will use it.

  13. There are costs to curbside parking, but I’m not sure you’ve identified any of them. It isn’t that hard to design a parking garage to look like something other than a parking garage.

  14. Yeah, but you aren’t talking about charging more to park. You are talking about forcing it all underground. Which is supposed to accomplish what again?

  15. The greatest irony is ITE does not provide recommendations or standards on parking demand. It merely is a guide for how research could be conducted. However, no one actually takes the time or effort to look at how cities function and so base large scale policies on what was shown in as few as three suburban study sites. In other words, ITE created the original parking myth perpetuated by lazy and cheap politicians.

  16. ‘Parking Requirements for Shopping Centers: Summary Recommendations and Research Study Report provides the standards for all sizes of retail facilities’ from While they may not say directly ‘this has to be as the regulation’, the fact of the matter is that they provide a standard or suggestion based on studies to provide for the 500 year parking flood which has been copied over and over again as if a singlular standard is applicable.

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