Why Parking Minimums Are the Bane of Urban Living

Modern Problems Need Modern Solutions

Today, more than 1 BILLION parking spaces exist in just the United States. When you levy that against the fact that only 278 MILLION US citizens own a private vehicle (according to 2022 reports by the US Department of Transportation), it makes you wonder why it’s always such a pain trying to find parking–especially in a city 

But where did all these parking lots come from—and why are people saying it’s crucial to get rid of as many as we can? 

In the 1950s, municipal governments enacted regulations directly supporting the post-war surge of urban development and personal vehicles. To accommodate the shift from foot to vehicle traffic, additional larger parking lots were developed. While these mandates served urban communities well over half a century ago, parking minimums are actually causing more harm than good today. 

From the devastating impact on the environment to the adverse effects on the community, parking minimums are a hot topic in modern urban development.  

This article will delve into the history, impact, and alternative solutions anyone developing or managing an urban community should know. 

The Purpose of Parking Minimums 

Parking minimums were enacted to mitigate street parking and avoid overcrowding in response to the dramatic increase in construction and development following WWII. 

Parking minimums require new developments to include a set minimum number of parking spots based on the building type and its intended use. For example, the parking minimums for a grocery store will differ from those for a condominium. 

2 Examples of How Parking Minimums Impact the Community 

  • Small Business Owners: When someone decides to build a brick-and-mortar business, parking minimums can be a shocking expense–and vary by the type and size of the lot. The costs to build a parking minimum-compliant parking lot may deter or make it impossible for potential business owners to set up a shop they could otherwise afford to open. 
  • The City’s Cost of Living: Additionally, building a compliant parking lot then adds to the property owner’s overall cost of ownership, which could compel them to increase unit rental costs to compensate for a parking lot that might be unnecessarily large and expensive, solely due to outdated municipal regulations.  

But it isn’t just the cost that makes parking minimums a polarizing issue.  

Urban life is changing, and traditional parking mandates may hinder progress.

With increasing CO2 emissions and growing populations, urban dynamics are evolving rapidly. As remote work and ridesharing become increasingly commonplace, municipal governments are shifting towards more communal and environmentally friendly methods of transportation as the negative impacts of parking minimums grow more apparent by the day. 

The Problems with Parking Minimums 

While initially enacted to improve the quality of life in city communities, parking minimums don’t adequately address modern community and environmental sustainability. Many experts feel they are causing more harm than good by partially forcing city infrastructure to build around parking lot requirements. Here are some of the most compelling arguments against parking minimums. 

They Contribute to Global Warming 

In cities where parking is plentiful because of parking minimum mandates, people are more likely to drive their personal vehicles to events, restaurants, and shops instead of taking more eco-friendly, less CO2 producing modes of transportation like walking, biking, or mass transit.  

They Aren’t Good for the Majority 

Because of skyrocketing housing costs (up 54% since 2019), including parking minimums, property owner’s monthly expenses are increasing. Unfortunately, these expenses are passed along (and then some) to residents—disproportionately affecting lower-income communities.  

Additionally, with so much urban land occupied by parking lots, there’s less space to build residential properties, further contributing to the housing shortage crisis. 

They Negatively Impact Homeowners 

With the ever-increasing cost of living, some homeowners try to offset costs by adding a rental unit to their property.  

Unfortunately, if the property doesn’t already offer space for an additional required parking spot, the homeowner is either out of luck—or may be forced to spend even more money on renovations just to be compliant. 

They’re Bad for Tax Revenue 

Aside from the impact on an “individual” level, parking minimums pose a major disadvantage to the city as a whole. According to a 2018 study, parking minimums return 80-95% LESS property tax revenue per acre than the actual building–which is actually a tax disincentive. 

And while all of this sounds intense 

The good news is that many are finding solutions to these issues, and developing alternatives to parking minimums that address the modern demands of urban communities. 

More Sustainable Parking Minimum Alternatives 

Outdated parking mandates aren’t irreparable, and many local governments across the globe are taking steps toward parking reform that accommodates drivers’ convenience and supports a healthier and more eco-efficient off-street parking strategy. The following describes three of the most prominent alternatives to parking minimums. 

Implementing Parking Maximums 

Aptly named, parking maximums are as straightforward as their counterparts. Instead of ensuring a minimum square footage per parking lot, parking maximums are zoning ordinances that decrease or avoid building parking lots larger than necessary.   

Aside from eliminating wasted space, it would help combat a significant side effect of parking lots—increased storm runoff. Parking lots don’t let groundwater infiltrate the soil, and this runoff can cause flooding and erosion that is otherwise easily avoidable. 

Promote Public Transportation 

If public transportation becomes more accessible and widely used by the community, the need for off-street parking will decrease dramatically. Aside from fewer and smaller parking lots, public transportation means fewer vehicles on the road generating emissions! Additionally, concepts like “walkable parking” and less land occupied by oversized parking lots can help increase walkability.  

Parking Garages and Shared Parking Facilities 

The environmental benefits of shared parking facilities help protect and heal our planet and also improve residents’ health. For example, parking garages make it easier to find parking spots, so there’s less time spent emitting CO2 looking around for one–and that also means cleaner air. They also make the most of less square footage by building up instead of out. 

One exciting sustainable parking solution is Automated Vehicle Storage and Retrieval Systems (AVSRS).  

An AVSRS is a computer-based system utilizing robotics to store and retrieve vehicles in a certain location/station. Each AVSRS has designated routes that the robots who do the “storing and retrieving” are programmed to follow. 

While boasting many benefits, AVSRS have even been shown to help reduce carbon footprints by over 80%! 

Smart Parking is Efficient Parking 

In addition to the aforementioned improvements that parking maximums create for the environment and the economy, there’s one more “E” to add to the list. 


As we’ve covered in numerous articles, efficiency is a major factor in an effective parking lot. Since the goal of parking maximums is decreasing the size of lots, ensuring optimal functionality of these lots is crucial to safety, convenience, and streamlining parking reform. 

But how can you achieve efficient parking management, regardless of the size of your current or future lot? 

Utilizing smart parking technologies such as parking management software, you can automate many aspects of parking operations and improve the overall parking experience. When used in conjunction with parking strategies like dynamic parking pricing, spaces are used more efficiently. 

And when parking rules are broken (because let’s face it, no one’s perfect), you’ll need efficient parking enforcement. Traditional methods like booting or towing are inconvenient and can prolong the time that violating vehicles occupy spaces.  

Modern parking enforcement technology is designed to promote compliance and provide easy and safe enforcement for parking managers and violators alike. Online payments, motorist self-release capabilities, and single-user deployments are just a few features that enable efficiency. 

To make parking enforcement even more efficient for parking managers, leveraging License Plate Recognition (LPR) technology in conjunction with modern parking enforcement tools provides a streamlined enforcement process.

The Benefits of Revising Parking Minimums 

With a staggering 5% of all urban land taken up by off-street parking and only a fraction of citizens parking on all that ecologically destructive asphalt, it’s more important now than ever for municipalities to prioritize parking reform strategies like those addressed above. 

From lowering carbon emissions and developmental costs, to increasing property value and residents’ wellness and health, implementing sustainable parking solutions isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for the economy, too. 

And for municipal governments interested in parking reform but aren’t sure how to enforce safe and efficient parking behavior (be it on the street, in a parking lot, or in a parking garage), there’s a solution for that, too.  

Learn more about how The Barnacle® can maximize parking enforcement efficiency–and why yellow is about to become your new favorite color.

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