In the pursuit of creating vibrant and pedestrian-friendly cities, analysts say, walkability is critical. But walkable spaces have diminished in the century since the advent of the automobile as cities have often required property developers to provide a minimum number of parking spaces with each new building.
Now, as cities and states rethink those requirements to try to create more pedestrian-friendly areas, it remains to be seen how long it could take to change the effects of decades of car-friendly policies. Rules requiring ample parking have contributed to urban centers getting covered in lots and garages for cars that hamper walkability in urban places, according to Parking Reform Network, a nonprofit supporting activists and professionals in disciplines or policy areas affected by parking.
“We found that walk score decreases significantly with more parking,” Parking Reform Network said in a report. “It’s clear that if we want to have walkable cities, we need cities that are less parkable.”
According to the analysis, an average of 20% of all land in cities is dedicated solely to parking. Breaking it down by population category, in cities with 1 million or more people, the average amount of land devoted to parking is 16%. In cities with populations ranging from 750,000 to 2 million, the average is 20%. For cities with populations between 500,000 and 750,000, the average is 19%, while cities with populations between 250,000 and 500,000 have the highest average, 24% of land dedicated to parking.
The data shows Arlington, Texas, has the worst performance, with 42% of land devoted to parking in its central business district, downtown, financial district or adjacent connecting neighborhoods. The numbers exclude all underground and parking built into a building.
Parking is important to the commercial real estate industry beyond just the ability of tenants to drive to properties. Parking often is clustered around main streets, office areas and historical districts. When land intended for residential or office development is used for parking lots, the availability of walkable space limits the potential for residential and commercial growth.
“Not only do parking minimums increase the cost of housing, but they also increase the share of a household’s income spent on transportation by making people dependent on the most expensive mode of transportation,” which is cars, said Parking Reform Network in a report.