Parking Lot Map

Explore how much land cities dedicate to parking in over 50 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 join the mapping volunteer team here and 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

Increasing Parking Decreases Walkability: What makes a great city? For many, one key component is walkability, which is becoming increasingly scarce in the United States. Over the last century, most cities have implemented 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. We found that walk score, an analysis of a city’s walkability, decreases significantly with more parking in the central city. It’s clear that if we want to have walkable cities, we need cities that are less parkable.

The Effect of Parking Mandates on Atlanta, GA

Parking Lots are Opportunities for Growth: On average, 20% of all land in the city centers we analyzed was dedicated solely to parking. This parking is often clustered around main streets, office districts, and historical cores, creating a barrier 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 50 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 a quarter of 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 size. We separated all 50 cities that were analyzed into different population categories, as found below. This average was then subtracted from the percent of land devoted to parking in the city. The difference between the city’s percent parking and the average was converted into a number between 1-100. 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.

  • 1 million and up: Average of 16% devoted to Parking
  • 750 thousand to 1 million: Average of 20% devoted to Parking
  • 500 thousand to 750 thousand: Average of 19% devoted to Parking
  • 250 thousand to 500 thousand: Average of 24% devoted to Parking

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 Renown French Quarter Neighborhood. These areas were combined into the Central City of New Orleans.

Zillow and Google Map neighborhood boundaries were used to construct half of the Central City boundaries. The methodology list below details all combined Zillow or Google Maps neighborhoods used to create the Central City boundary. Some cities did not qualify for using 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

21 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.

  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.

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