American Developers Are Building Less Parking Per Bedroom

Unlike previous declines in residential parking ratios, the current one is happening during a period of low gas prices and decent economic conditions.
Unlike previous declines in residential parking ratios, the current one is happening during a period of low gas prices and decent economic conditions.

For decades the number of parking spaces built for each new residence in America has marched steadily upward. But now we may have reached a turning point.

A new report by the real estate analysis firm Redfin, which operates Walk Score, suggests a change is underway. Property data for millions of U.S. homes shows the number of parking spaces per bedroom in new construction has declined for the last four years.

Parking construction per bedroom has dipped before, says Redfin data scientist Eric Scharnhorst, during recessions or periods of high energy prices. But this time, the decline coincides with cheap gas and rising employment.

Scharnhorst thinks public policy may be a factor, as more cities reduce parking mandates, making it easier to build apartments with little or no parking.

Redfin looked at apartments, condos, and single-family homes. In the analysis, a house with a two-car garage, for example, was counted as having two parking spaces. And an apartment with a single parking stall was counted as having one parking space.

It will take more time and data to determine if this is a real long-term shift. But the recent trend is an encouraging sign that the nation can make progress when it comes to excessive parking construction and the traffic and affordability problems it causes.

Before you start feeling too good about the state of affairs, however, remember that America still builds more homes with three-car garages than one-bedroom apartments. So there’s plenty of room for improvement.

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Alan Durning is the executive director and founder of Sightline Institute, a think tank on sustainability issues in the Pacific Northwest. This article, originally posted on Sightline’s blog, is #9 in their series, “Parking? Lots!” Have you ever watched the excavation that precedes a tall building? It seems to take forever. Then, when the digging […]