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 firstname.lastname@example.org
If this map has been helpful to you, please support our work with a monthly donation.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.