Parking Lot Map

Explore how much land cities dedicate to parking in over 80 major cities included on the map below. Click the drop-down icon in the upper right corner to select a city and use the popup info card on the right to learn more about the city and its parking reform status. You can send feedback to

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“ The twin gods of Smooth Traffic and Ample Parking—have turned our downtowns into places that are easy to get to but not worth arriving at.”

Key Takeaways

Public Transportation enables Urban Density: What makes a great city? For many, one key component is walkability, which is becoming increasingly scarce in the United States. Over the past century, cities have increasingly relied on cars for transportation, leading to the implementation of minimum parking requirements mandating that all new developments have abundant free parking. As a result, our cities became covered in a sea of parking spaces, parking lots, and parking structures. With all this parking, little land was left for anything else, making housing more expensive, less dense, and farther apart.

Our research indicates that the percentage of land taken up by parking decreases as the percentage of individuals who opt for public transportation, walking, or biking as their primary commuting methods increases. Public transportation not only enables the utilization of urban space but also enhances its value. This revelation underscores a clear truth: to foster densely walkable cities, we must prioritize accessibility over excessive parking.

The Effect of Parking Demand on Atlanta, GA

Parking Lots are Opportunities for Growth: On average, 22% of all land in city centers of metropolitan areas with over a million people was dedicated solely to parking. This parking is often clustered around main streets, office districts, and historical cores, creating a dead zone around the city’s most valuable and walkable areas that limits residential and commercial growth. Cities with high parking have ample land that could be devoted to building walkable neighborhoods, vibrant parks, or office districts. Suppose all parking in all 87 city centers analyzed was converted to residential, at a density of 40,000 people per square mile. In that case, we could provide enough housing for over half a million people.

Adams Morgan in Washington, DC (Density: 40,000 People Per Square Mile)


What does “Parking Score” mean?

Parking Score measures how a city’s parking lot land use compares to other cities of a similar metropolitan area population and city type. We separated all cities with over 300 thousand people in a metro area of 1 million and up into different population categories, as found below. The parking score was created by taking the difference between a city’s parking footprint and the average parking footprint for a metro area of that size. The difference was then converted into a number between 1-100. A parking score for a satellite city however takes the difference between the average of all satellite cities in the study. This is because satellite cities lack dominance in a metro area and can’t be compared efficiently with core, twin, and node cities.

A low parking score means the city devotes much less land in its central neighborhoods to parking than the average. Conversely, a high score translates to more land dedicated to parking compared to the average for a city of that size. This scoring system was created to evaluate cities on an equal basis and should not be used outside of this context.

Population Categories

  • 5 million and up: Average of 16% devoted to Parking
  • 4 million to 5 million: Average of 18% devoted to Parking
  • 3 million to 4 million: Average of 20% devoted to Parking
  • 2 million to 3 million: Average of 21% devoted to Parking
  • 1 million to 2 million: Average of 25% devoted to Parking

City Categories

  • Core City: These are the main or central cities within their respective metropolitan areas and often serve as economic, cultural, and administrative hubs. Examples include Albuquerque, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and many others.
  • Twin City: Twin cities are pairs of closely located cities that make up the main or central cities of their metropolitan area or share certain regional characteristics. Examples include Dallas/Fort Worth, Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and Oakland/San Francisco.
  • Node City: Node cities are important central cities in a highly polycentric metro area. Examples include Anaheim, Santa Ana, Riverside, and San Bernardino.
  • Satellite City: These cities are typically located near a larger core city and have a significant relationship with it, often functioning as a supporting or complementary urban area. Examples include Arlington (TX), Aurora (CO), Henderson (NV), and others.

How was “Percent of Central City Devoted to Parking” Calculated?

Percent of land dedicated to parking was determined by dividing the entire area of all land where the main land use is parking by the estimated developable land area inside the Central City boundary. To find this, we extracted all parking shapefiles from Open Street Maps in our “Central City” focus area. We removed all underground and podium parking from this data set. This was done because it would be impossible to determine the accuracy of the underground or podium parking area based on satellite imagery. It was also excluded because this land is already used for other purposes and can not be easily redeveloped. The goal was to find all land that’s primary purpose was parking passenger vehicles. Some cities were mapped extensively, while others had minimal mapping of their parking lots. We manually added all parking based on Google Maps satellite imagery. The data is up to date as currently as the google maps satellite imagery for the area is up to date. This will be updated periodically when satellite photos are updated for the area.

The amount of developable land was found by taking 75% of the entire area of the Central City boundary. 25% of the land was excluded to account for roads and sidewalks, leaving an estimate of all usable land in the Central City boundary.

What does “Central City” mean?

“Central City” is a term invented for this map to encompass the densest, most centrally located, and most valuable real estate in a metropolitan area. “Central City” is a blanket term for a city’s Central Business District, Downtown, Financial District, or adjacent connecting neighborhoods of interest. For example, New Orleans’s Central Business District seamlessly connects with the world-renowned French Quarter Neighborhood. These areas were combined into the Central City of New Orleans.

Zoning districts, Zillow, and Google Map neighborhood boundaries were used to construct most of the Central City boundaries. The methodology list below details all combined Zoning districts, Zillow, or Google Maps neighborhoods used to create the Central City boundary. Some cities did not qualify for using Zoning district, Zillow, or Google Maps boundaries due to the lack of, abnormally large, or irregularly drawn Downtown, Central Business District, or Financial District boundaries. In that case, a boundary was drawn by Parking Reform Network to include a centrally located commercial center.

Methodology for Central City Boundaries

38 thoughts on “Parking Lot Map”

  1. Wow!!!
    I lived outside Detroit for 5 years. It has plenty of parking, but nowhere I would have gone way back when!
    It’s a fascinating study. Congratulations!
    I don’t see my city, Naples FL. We are trying, maybe we’d be Blue? Dunno
    Again, congrats on great work.

    1. At least you’re in the green- I live in Louisville, but I’m advocating for making things better here!

  2. Do these percentages reflect any on-street parking (either metered or free) or does the calculation subtract these in the “25% for roads and sidewalks?”

    1. Thomas Carpenito

      Hi Matt! All on-street parking is excluded from the calculations. We included that on-street parking space as part of the 25% dedicated to streets.

      1. This is a great topic to bring attention to. But by excluding street space given away for free car storage (street parking), you’re doing a disservice to safety and street activists in dense cities like New York who are trying to take back some of their street space from cars. A better focus would be the total percentage of public space in a city (including streets) that is occupied by car parking. There are better and higher uses of the street space in dense cities.

        1. Thomas Carpenito

          Hi Kevin, thank you for the feedback. We are working on developing a total percent devoted to off-street parking as part of the city. I encourage you to join the network and work on the project. We need all the help we can get!

  3. Great stuff, these maps will be very valuable!

    For the central cities boundaries, I wonder how the rankings would change if you added that next marginal neighborhood

  4. Really interesting and useful stuff!

    Have you also done the calculation of how much of these downtowns are dedicated to cars overall, including streets themselves? That’d be pretty powerful.

    1. Thomas Carpenito

      We estimated in each calculation that streets and sidewalks take up about 25% of a city’s land. You could add that to the parking percentage and see that some cities devote have of their land to streets and parking!

  5. An excellent initiative Thomas and PRN! Bravo!

    I want to encourage you to take this analysis one step further and not just look for downtown parking lots. Cities like the one I live in, Chicago, may not have many actual parking lots in its central city area (thank goodness!), but it does have *far too many* off-street parking facilities that are mostly above ground. And while these are not as vibrancy-destroying as having too many surface parking lots, it still greatly and very negatively impacts the experience in a myriad of ways (too many cars on the streets of an otherwise very walkable city!).

    Death by parking podiums is a real phenomena and it’s not getting the attention that it deserves. Vertical sprawl is another way of describing this. Chicago and other cities like it may have tall, dense towers, but if residents can still mostly drive everywhere enabled by ample parking inside of nearly every high rise, how exactly is this much different than surface parking lots? If you haven’t lived in a city experience like this before, it may not seem obvious. But day-in-and-day-out, if you pay attention, you can see its clear negative effects.

    1. Thomas Carpenito

      Hi Jim! I totally agree. The “downtowns” were chosen as the primary focus area due to time restraints as it takes a lot to verify each parking lot. The more neighborhoods the more time for each map. Based on my data the downtowns were where most of the parking lots was. The parking podiums wouldn’t be included in the map though because the land becomes mixed use. This would be very hard to verify each parking podium as we verify based on mostly satellite data.

      1. Indeed it’d be much harder to map these podiums out – I think you’d need local volunteers helping you to document all of this. May I suggest that it focus on it is highly needed. With every new high rise with parking podium that goes up in a city like Chicago (and there are many being built currently), in many specific ways, the quality of the city experience degrades. With some local volunteers collaborating with you, this should be doable.

          1. In Chicago, the local Strong Towns group comes to mind as does Better Streets Chicago. Both are filled with folks who are motivated and frustrated by the car status quo.

  6. I believe it is unfair to label parking garages as “parking lots.” Despite the numerous downtown parking garages being a product of car-centrism, they’re still more efficient and less ugly than the stereotypical Walmart parking lot we imagine when thinking of the term. It would also be more descriptive and accurate to display the parking garages as seperate from the parking lots. This also makes me question how total land area used for vehicle parking was calculated. Would a hotel with a parking garage in its lower floors be counted entirely as parking, or just those few floors? Please revise the map and this article.
    Unrelated, but if an online tool to add to this map could be made, crowdsourcing could be used to add more parking.

    1. This tool aims to represent the off street parcels of land that are primarily used for parking. The hotel or apartments or office with a podium or underground parking would likely not be counted. While a parking structure may be more efficient than a surface lot, it is still land devoted to car storage and, in many respects, is worse than a surface lot because it cannot be easily redeveloped and it brings more traffic and pollution to the community.

      Our base map begins with open street map and we are coordinating volunteers to help.

      For the reasons I have given we will not be rewriting the article or adjusting the map. The methodology describes and defends the decisions we have made.

      1. Santiago Rios

        I must 2nd the opinion that the name of this map is misleading and that there should be an option to toggle between surface lots and standalone garages (an effort in which I’d be more than willing to volunteer for).

        While it’s important to show cities the total amount of land they devote to parking, I believe the spirit of this map is to serve as a tool to identify the opportunities for redevelopment. Surface lots are those “opportunities” because, as Tony said, garages cannot be easily redeveloped.

        1. Santiago,
          Thank you for your feedback. Redevelopment potential is one aspect of the map, but it is not the only (or even the primary) purpose of the visualization. We are an organization that promotes comprehensive parking policy reform and organizing/coalition building around that goal from multiple perspectives.

          That said, we will continue to develop and integrate the product with other data. Presenting multiple views is both a data collection/filtering aspect as well as a programatic and user interface/design issue and would require a review of the existing 50 cities plus the next batch we are releasing shortly.

          The most effective way to support new features of the map is to support PRN with general fund contributions. Specific funding to add features or support research on the map via sponsorship or grants will be considered on a case by case basis.

  7. car dependence must stop

    I really hope Dallas removes parking minimums. Our downtown is still very walkable, but imagine how much more lively it will become once those ugly parking lots (which are almost always empty) are replaced with non-wasteful uses.

    1. That was the first thing I noticed when I first visited Dallas. Such a verdent part of Texas and yet the downtown was a lonely, treeless ocean of hot concrete.

  8. Not all parking is bad; many people have cars and there are not many public transportation options to easily connect people to different parts of a metropolitan area.

    Also, for many people in desert cities like Phoenix or Mesa, it’s simply way too hot to expect most people to walk outside in the heat or wait at bus stops without risking dehydration or other heat affects from the 100°+ weather. It is nice to walk outside in the winter, but simply just not realistic for much of the year. Cars and parking lots/garages can allow these people who live far from the downtown area to drive into and from the central area without getting a heat stroke.

    In addition, many central cities have issues with crime, homelessness, and other issues. I personally wouldn’t want to wait at bus stops in certain downtown areas with pervasive crime issues, and not everyone has extra money for more expensive Uber or Lyft rides.

    Walkable cities is nice, but we shouldn’t gloss over the other issues that may arise if we just eliminated out all parking lots of garages.

    1. The concerns you raise are consequences of the design choices of cities, not the drivers of them.

      The arguments you make about the heat in Phoenix you could as easily make for the sub-zero winters in Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, or Milwaukee, yet despite frigid hellholes, they manage to fall in the top half of this list. Chicago has a great public transit system, Minneapolis even has sky bridges in its downtown connecting many of its buildings so you never have to leave to the outdoors. The point is, there are options if weather were REALLY the problem. There’s nothing stopping Phoenix from installing an air-conditioned subway system and walkable over- or underground walkways, except the design choices it has already made that preferenced a staggering suburban sprawl over compact urban living.

      As for “crime, homelessness, and other issues”… look, maybe if more people weren’t bubbled off into private little enclaves where they could pretend these things didn’t exist, they’d stop seeing this as an Other People Problem and actually work to fix their underlying drivers.

  9. Including only the waterfront while excluding other downtown neighborhoods for Jersey City doesn’t make sense.

  10. Grove St station is widely acknowledged to be the center of Jersey City, and it is barely at the periphery of the “Central city” you defined. Downtown Jersey City is defined as everything east of I-78 and he Palisades between Tidewater Basin to the south, and Hoboken to the north.

    You also include a bunch of lots that have closed in your computation: the lots at 50 Hudson St and 55 Hudson St dully closed for redevlopment. The lot at 420 Marin Blvd has partially closed and the building there is rising. The lot at 242 Hudson St is also partially closed.

    1. Thomas Carpenito

      Haley, thank you for your candidness. “Central City” is a term invented for this map to encompass the densest, most centrally located, and most valuable real estate in a metropolitan area. We believe the waterfront encompasses this the best. “Central City” is a blanket term for a city’s Central Business District, Downtown, Financial District, or adjacent connecting neighborhoods of interest. We didn’t include the “Historic” downtown because it resembles more a neighborhood of interest, if added it would make it the biggest “Central City” in our map set and less comparable to other cities. About two times bigger than the second biggest city.

      As per the lots being developed. We take all our data from google maps most up to date satellite imagery. This happens to be around 11 months old. We dont have the capacity as we are volunteer based to check all our data with current development politics. Once it is updated on google we will update it on our end. Thanks again!

  11. First, this is awesome. Thanks for working on this.

    I’d love to see a scatter plot of total parking area vs. mean or median land values, since you don’t just need a lot of people in one place but also the tax base to support the system (not to mention a capable government and the political will to implement it). I can think of a lot of developing-world cities that are denser than Manhattan yet choked with cars for lack of adequate public transit.

    I’d also love to see an exploration of the outliers — that is, cities that are doing better/worse than you’d expect given their land values and density to understand how policy has played a role and where success or failure is driven by policies that could be implemented (or stopped) today.

    1. Thomas Carpenito

      Hi Johnny, Greensboro doesn’t have a metro population of 1 million or higher. Since we don’t have all the data on cities with metro populations from 500k to 1 million we can’t accurately compare the city. Once we add all cities with a metro area of 500k to 1 million metro populations we can add a parking score for Greensboro.

      1. Good to know. If you look at the stats, you’ll see that Greensboro has close to 33% of downtown devoted to parking, and yet the downtown improvement organization is always pressing for more. Of course they are heavily lobbied by developers who have purchased properties, which can be turned into paid parking until someone comes along in need of a lot to build on. Meanwhile, there have been somewhat secret meetings about using tax payer money for unneeded venues or sports facilities, either on these current parking spaces or after bull dozing buildings.

  12. What’s the data availability for this project? I think it would be interesting to train an open source image segmentation network to detect parking from satellite imagery automatically.

  13. This is a good start, but the geographic areas depicted are WAY too small to truly capture the “center city” assessment. (i.e. random square in the middle of Manhattan, portion of federal office district in DC, portion of Uptown Charlotte, etc.)

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