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Parking and TOD: Challenges and Opportunities, Statewide Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Study: Factors for Succes in California Special Report

Provides an overview of information regarding parking reductions near major transit stations


This special report is intended to provide information to local jurisdictions, transit agencies, developers, financial institutions, and others as they develop and implement parking standards and programs for transit-oriented developments (TODs) in California. It provides an overview of available information regarding the extent to which parking for various types of land uses may be reduced in the vicinity of major transit stations1. It is one of a series of reports produced for the California Department of Transportation, Division of Mass Transportation’s Statewide Transit-Oriented Development Study. This report is not intended to be an exhaustive source of information on TOD parking issues; rather, it is meant as a starting point upon which additional information can and should be added. For some topics (e.g., shared parking, parking planning), guidebooks currently exist which can be referenced for more detailed information (see Sources section). 

TOD offers significant opportunities to reduce the number of parking spaces below conventional parking requirements for retail, office and residential land uses. TOD provides these opportunities by increasing transit accessibility and combining a mixture of land uses. At the same time, increased densities in TODs, coupled with the goal of improving accessibility for pedestrians to transit stations, often means building structured parking garages. Parking spaces in structures can cost from $10,000 to $30,000 each, compared to about $5,000 per space for surface parking (depending on underlying land values, type of parking structure [e.g., above or below ground], landscaping, and architectural quality). These increased costs can negatively affect the financial feasibility of projects, even if they are otherwise profitable.

Hence, if the design and location of TODs enables a reduction in the number of parking spaces needed, the cost savings can be significant.2 Reduced parking requirements can lower TOD construction costs, which in turn can make housing more affordable and/or allow more development to be built on sites near transit. For example, in one case study of six San Francisco neighborhoods, the standard requirement for off-street parking was found to increase costs for single family homes and condominiums by more than ten percent3.

This study also found that, based on home selling prices and the distribution of incomes for San Francisco residents, an additional 26,000 households could potentially afford to purchase condominiums if off-street parking was not legally required.

In addition, reduced parking requirements can:

  • Reduce residential parking rates
  • Reduce office/commercial rents
  • Lessen urban water runoff
  • Reinforce/encourage transit use
  • Increase taxable square footage
  • Improve local traffic circulation
  • Improve urban design, and
  • Generate congestion management credits for businesses (where applicable)

The research summarized in this special report indicates that TOD can potentially reduce parking per household by approximately 20%, compared to non transit-oriented land uses. A wide range of parking reductions (from 12% to 60%) has also been found for commercial parking in TODs. To date, however, there are no clear conclusions regarding how much parking may reasonably be reduced for any particular TOD. Therefore parking needs must be calculated on a site-by-site basis.

Overview of Report Organization

This special report is organized in five main sections. The first section presents general findings regarding the extent to which parking can be reduced in TODs, which derive from interviews/surveys of transit agencies and developers in California and around the country, and a review of the literature. Sources that were reviewed include academic studies, trade journal articles, consultant reports, agency studies, and planning documents available in hard copy or on the Internet.

These findings show that parking can successfully be reduced in TODs. However, there is no single formula that can or should always be used, and parking needs can vary widely in various locations -- even within the same jurisdiction. In establishing parking codes, studies have found that jurisdictions often simply use other localities’ parking codes or strategies, which often lead to parking problems. Experience has shown that strict adherence to local parking codes or national Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) parking data often creates oversupplies of parking in many places.

Thus, the general findings offered here should be tempered with additional research that accounts for various factors that affect parking demand, such as: the specific tenant mix in a particular project (e.g., office worker densities, shoppers per retail employee); the quality of the local transit service; applicable trip reduction requirements and/or incentives; residential demographics; site conditions (e.g., pedestrian circulation constraints, parking spillover potential); as well as other local factors that can affect transit and auto use rates.

The next two sections of the report present summaries of site-specific and regional strategies that various jurisdictions and developers are using to reduce parking or to use parking more efficiently in TODs.

However, since it is not feasible to universally apply the specific parking reduction factors and strategies described in this special report to all situations, the fourth section of the special report suggests a generalized process for developing a local parking program. The primary purpose of this section is to point out general issues that need to be addressed.

Finally, the report provides several appendices that supplement other information presented and provide some illustrative examples. Appendix A summarizes a general methodology for implementing shared parking strategies. Appendix B describes parking policies and programs in a number of “case study” TODs that were analyzed within California and in other parts of the U.S. for this report. In addition, Appendix B summarizes information about actual experience that has resulted from implementing these policies. It is difficult to form any conclusions about “ideal” TOD parking standards or programs based on the specific information presented in Appendix B alone, however, because each of the case study TODs are unique with respect to their context and experience. For instance, some of these TODs are still under construction, some do not reduce parking, while others do reduce parking, but for different reasons.

At the same time, much of the information presented in the Appendix volume is consistent with other research and professional judgment regarding parking and TODs. Appendix C lists maximum parking standards that local governments in the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area have established to reduce the number of non-residential parking spaces allowed per capita. Finally, Appendix D presents “parking planning worksheets” that can be used in estimating parking requirements in TODs.

Importantly, this special report does not address two important issues that pertain to commuter parking and TODs, namely:

  • It does not identify TODs that should include park-and-ride facilities, as this is a transit system planning question that is best answered by local transit agency staff. This issue should be resolved as early as possible in the design of transit stations and TODs, however, so that all parking planning efforts can be integrated.
  • It also does not provide suggestions on how to configure parking to maximize accessibility and safety for pedestrians. This is primarily an urban design issue.