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Parking policy is one of the most important yet least discussed city policy levers that touches on almost all aspects of good ideas for cities: smart land use, equitable access to services, affordable housing, streamlined transportation, and sustainable economic development. Most cities have an overabundance of parking, but parking can still seem difficult because of a lack of management, appropriate pricing, and ease of use. Cities like Berkeley and San Francisco are leading the way on parking technology and management solutions with projects like GoBerkeley and SFPark, shown to reduce average meter rates, reduce parking meter violations, reduce the time spent looking for parking, and reduces vehicle miles driven.


Other cities, like Austin and Pasadena, have been working with Parking Benefit Districts to ensure parking is priced appropriately in congested areas and that a portion of revenue from parking is returned to the neighborhood where it is collected. Cities can even require that revenue to go towards improving non-vehicle transit and mobility options in the neighborhood.


More cities still – from Muskegon to Seattle - are tackling parking problems through by updating antiquated building and zoning codes, removing mandatory parking minimums for developers and encouraging Transportation Demand Management (TDM) measures to counteract the need for parking. These actions can encourage density and mode shifts that can lead to more equitable and vibrant city centers, and can lead to more affordable housing options.  


Consult these links for more on how cities across the country are addressing the dilemma of parking policy, and using it to help create more vibrant and livable cities. You can also watch our Summer 2016 Meeting panel, “Parking Policies for a Thriving City” featured Mayor Steven Gawron of Muskegon (MI), Berkeley’s Senior Transportation Planner Gordon Hansen, and Lauren Mattern, Senior Associate for Nelson Nygaard, a transportation planning group that has helped hundreds of cities improve their transit and mobility options.

Cities Finally Realize They Don’t Need to Require So Much Damn Parking, Ben Adler, Grist, August 2nd, 2016. Read more.

Urban Planners’ New Enemy, Alan Ehrenhalt, Governing, August 1st, 2016. Read more.

The high and hidden costs of parking requirements, Daniel Hertz, City Commentary, April 4th, 2016. Read more.

Ideas Worth Stealing: Parking benefit districts, Keystone Crossroads, March 28th, 2016. Read more.

Stalled out: How Empty Parking Spaces Diminish Neighborhood Affordability, Center for Neighborhood Technology, March 1st, 2016. Read more.

Leveraging New Transportation Technology to Increase Affordable Housing, Kevin DeGood, Inside Sources, February 17th, 2016. Read more.

Study reveals savings from smart parking, Adam Pitt, Cities Today, December 28th, 2015. Read more.

Berkeley Wins $1M Parking Grant to Fix ‘2-hour Shuffle’, Emilie Raguso, Berkeleyside, December 18th, 2015. Read more.

How Parking Management Can Help Cities Grow Smarter, Richard Willson, Planetizen, November 2nd, 2015. Read more.

Oakland’s Sweeping Plan for Parking, Sam Levin, East Bay Express, October 28th, 2015. Read more.

A Green Solution to Oakland’s Housing Crisis, Sam Levin, East Bay Express, August 15th, 2015. Read more.

Downtown Parking Management Strategy: Saint Paul, MN, SRF and Nelson\Nygaard, April 1st, 2015. Read more.

SFpark: Pilot Project Evaluation Summary, SFpark and SFMTA Municipal Transportation Agency, June 1st, 2014. Read more.

SFpark: Putting Theory Into Practice, SFpark and SFMTA Municipal Transportation Agency, June 1st, 2014. Read more.

Contemporary Approaches to Parking Pricing: A Primer, US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, May 1st, 2012. Read more.

Cutting the Cost of Parking Requirements, Donald Shoup, Access Magazine, Access 48, Spring 2016. Read more.

Muskegon Off-street Parking Standards, City of Muskegon, MI, Section 2008. Read more.

Cities of all sizes – from Muskegon, MI to Seattle, WA – are rethinking minimum parking requirements, transitioning to form based codes, and using parking as a strategy to encourage affordable housing.


Programs like SFpark and GoBerkeley are leading the way on parking technology to help people park faster, smarter and more easily. These two examples, in cities with very different populations, highlight how a program like this can be very costly and high-tech or relatively budget-friendly.


Austin and Houston, TX have followed in Old Pasadena, CA’s footsteps, using Parking Benefit Districts to build local support for pricing parking, ensure parking for local residents and workers, and to use parking revenue to benefit the neighborhood. Seattle is aiming to follow their lead.


Katya Szabados
(608) 262-5831
Read more about parking policy in the 'Land-use Planning' section of our report Cities at Work: Progressive Local Policies to Rebuild the Middle Class.