Parking Has Eaten American Cities

A study documents the huge amount of space taken up by parking, and the astronomical costs it represents, in five U.S. cities.

Parking eats up an incredible amount of space and costs America’s cities an extraordinary amount of money. That’s the main takeaway of a study that looks in detail at parking in five U.S. cities: New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, Des Moines, and Jackson, Wyoming.

The study, by Eric Scharnhorst of the Research Institute for Housing America (which is affiliated with the Mortgage Bankers of America), uses data from satellite images, the U.S. Census, property tax assessment offices, city departments of transportation, parking authorities, and geospatial maps like Google Maps to generate inventories of parking for these five cities. (The inventories include on-street parking spaces, off-street surface parking lots, and off-street parking structures.)

It not only estimates the total number of parking spaces in these cities and their overall estimated replacement costs, but develops interesting metrics such as parking spaces per acre, parking spaces per household, and parking costs per household—as well as providing maps of parking densities across these cities.

In sum, it provides additional empirical confirmation for parking guru Donald Shoup’s idea that American cities devote far too much space and far too many resources to parking.Screen Shot 2019-05-22 at 4.06.37 PM.png

Scharnhorst finds that there are more than 2 million parking spaces in Philadelphia, 1.85 million in New York, 1.6 million each in Seattle and Des Moines, and just over 100,000 in tiny Jackson, which has a population of about 10,000.

Parking takes up a huge amount of space: Jackson has more than 50 parking spaces per acre, 25 times its residential density of just two households per acre. Jackson has a whopping 27 parking spaces for each of its households.

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1 reply
  1. Bill Batt
    Bill Batt says:

    The higher the tax on either vacant or underused land parcels, the greater the incentive to develop them to get a return on their carrying costs. Reducing the penalty on the improvements insure that those sites will not long be idle.

    Reply

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