Parking Lot Map

Explore how much land cities dedicate to parking in over 100 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 [email protected]

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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.

Depicts all Core Cities with an Urbanized Area Population over 1 Million

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: In the city centers of core cities with urbanized areas with over 500 thousand people, the median percentage of land dedicated solely to parking was 26%. 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 102 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)

Methodology

What does “Parking Score” mean?

Parking Score measures how a city’s parking lot land use compares to other cities of a similar urbanized area population and city type. We separated all cities with an urbanized area population of over 500 thousand people into different population categories, as found below. The parking score for core cities was created by taking the difference between a city’s parking percentage and the median parking percentage of the ten urbanized areas closest in population to the urbanized area of the city being scored. The difference was then converted into a number between 1-100. Principal cities and suburbs were excluded from the parking score. This is because principal cities lack dominance in an urbanized area and can’t be compared efficiently with core cities. We also lack a sufficient sample size of principal cities and suburbs to provide an accurate score.

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

City Categories

  • Core City: These are the main or central cities within their respective Combined Statistical Areas (CSA). They often serve as economic, cultural, and administrative hubs. These cities are often the largest in their CSA, but not always. San Francisco has a smaller population than San Jose because of its small city borders but has a substantially larger employment base than San Jose. This is also true for Norfolk, VA. Examples of core cities include Albuquerque (NM), Atlanta (GA), Chicago (IL), Dallas (TX), Los Angeles (CA), and many others.
  • Principal 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. These cities lack regional dominance in their urbanized area in terms of population and employment. Examples include Long Beach (CA), New Haven (CT), and Fort Worth (TX).
  • Suburbs: Suburban cities often lack a large established downtown and are often primarily residential in nature with a strong reliance on the core city. Examples include Arlington (TX), Aurora (CO), Henderson (NV), and others.

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

We calculated the percentage of land used for parking in the “Central City” by dividing the total parking area by the estimated developable land area. To do this, we used OpenStreetMaps to gather parking information in our focused “Central City” region, excluding underground and podium parking. The aim was to identify all land primarily meant for parking cars. For cities with limited mapping, we manually added parking lots using Google Maps satellite imagery, ensuring the data is as current as the latest Google Maps satellite images. We will update all parking lots periodically when new satellite photos become available.

To find the developable land area of a “Central City”, we calculated 75% of the entire Central City boundary area, excluding 25% for roads and sidewalks. This provides an estimate of all usable land within 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 highest-density zoning districts such as a Central Business District, Downtown, or Financial District.

How did we create our boundaries?

Zoning districts were used to construct the Central City boundaries. The methodology link below details all combined Zoning districts used to create each Central City boundary.

NOTE: On January 10th, 2024 we replaced all city center boundaries with their respective zoning boundaries to ensure that all parking lot maps are comparable and more accurate to the conditions of the city’s development pattern.

Methodology for Central City Boundaries

What is an Urbanized Area?

An Urbanized Area is often considered a better indicator of a city’s true population compared to the metro population or city population because it provides a more comprehensive and realistic representation of the extent of urban development and population density.

A Metropolitan Statistical Area population is meant to account for the influence a city extends beyond its traditional city borders showing a more accurate population representation. This, however, is insufficient in accurately showing the sphere of influence because it simply uses the entire population of certain counties to determine a metro area’s population. This includes outlying towns and cities that are included in geographically large counties, often in the West. A city’s urbanized area is a better indicator of the true population of a Core City by only counting the population of a contiguous set of census blocks that are “densely developed residential, commercial, and other nonresidential areas”. Urban areas consist of a densely-settled urban core, plus surrounding developed areas that meet certain density criteria. In short, where the development of a city stops, its urbanized population stops. See below the differences between the varying ways of measuring a city’s population.

St. Louis Metro Area (Orange), St. Louis Urbanized Area (Yellow), and St. Louis City Boundaries (Red)

What parking did we map?

Surface Parking: Surface lots were only mapped if there was a verifiable presence of use. To determine this satellite imagery and Google Street View™ were used. For the most part, only surface lots that were paved and displayed painted lines indicating a parking spot were mapped. If a surface lot was unpaved or lacked lines, Google Street View™ was used to verify the continued presence of vehicle parking in the location. Vehicle parking was defined as only passenger vehicles, all large commercial vehicle parking and tractor-trailers were omitted. 

Above Ground Garages: Garages were only mapped if the primary use for the structure was parking passenger vehicles. Garages with ground floor retail with two or more stories of parking were mapped because a majority of the structure is parking. If a garage has ground floor retail with roof parking or one story of parking it was omitted because the structure’s primary use can not be verified. In all structures where a parking structure has offices, retail, or apartments on top, i.e. podium parking, the structure was omitted. 

Underground Garages: All underground parking was omitted. 

On-Street Parking: All On-Street Parking was omitted.

34 thoughts on “Parking Lot Map”

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

  1. 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. 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!

  2. 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

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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. 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.

  10. Thomas Carpenito

    Hi William. For Milwaukee the boundary is mostly all the downtown zoning districts (C9) and for Philadelphia its primarily the central core zoning district (CMX-5).

    1. William F Rayner

      Thanks Thomas. I was confused on what the chart represents. When clicking into each city, you do show that Milwaukee has more space for parking overall. However, it’s compared to smaller cities with more parking generally than Philly. So the chart shows Milwaukee fares better compared to peer cities than Philly, not that it has less space devoted to parking overall.

  11. It would be useful to add the city names to each dot in the plot and curve graphic. I was curious about which cities were at which areas on the curve.

  12. Looks like the boundaries of the core city in Phoenix should be expanded northward to include the Roosevelt Row arts/entertainment district (i.e. northward to the I-10 between Seventh Street & Seventh Avenue). This area is the most vibrant section of downtown and is well served by the metro region’s light rail system.

    1. Thomas Carpenito

      Hi David, we are only mapping the Central Business District zoning districts of the cities right now. This way we can compare the cities efficiently.

  13. How much time does it take your volunteers to map a city’s core?

    If someone was thinking of doing something similar in their city, what tips / tools would you recommend to make the work more efficient.

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