How often do you see “suggested” painted stripes and tree islands in a parking lot that take you out-of-the-way from the most direct route?  Do you look around for security vehicles and cut through the fast way?  In an open area of asphalt, most people will disregard the painted parking stripes, because no one is parked there and it seems pointless to drive further.  If you are like me, when you see a car parked out in no-man’s-land of a large parking lot you probably think that the car has been abandoned.  So why do we have so much wasted asphalt in our parking lots?

An oversized parking lot can result in unpredictable circulation patterns. Image courtesy of

We build these massive parking lots for the one day of the year when the parking lot might be near capacity.  In most cases, it is wishful thinking. The other 364 days of the year, our cities create an unpleasant pedestrian environment where acres of land are wasted for automobile storage.  To accommodate this unpleasant mass of asphalt, an additional waste of land is often needed for storm water retention/detention.

Occasionally, the retailers, apartment complexes, etc. are to blame for their own preconceived requirements for automobile storage.  However, in most instances the quantity of parking is dictated by the local municipal zoning code and/or subdivision regulations.  The majority of the zoning codes in the United States mandate minimum parking standards based on the square feet of the building and/or other variables.  Typically, the minimum parking standard is excessive as it is mandated – but it is only the minimum.  A simple fix, and first step, is to modify the parking requirements by replacing the adjective “minimum” with “maximum.”  Maximum parking spaces offer predictability in the development along with decreased stormwater runoff and a paved environment that is slightly more tolerable.  Regulation should not be another obstacle, especially when tenants and financiers already have their own parking requirements.
In the next blog post, Parking Agreements: The Benefits of Shared Parking, I am going to discuss shared parking, as another method of reducing unnecessary parking spaces.