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TOD-Targeted Parking Regulations

High parking requirements can make housing prohibitively expensive to build, particularly affordable housing near transit, where the cost of land can be relatively high. Typically, localities govern parking through minimum requirements, which require a certain amount of parking based on number of bedrooms, units or square feet. With every parking space consuming 320-350 square feet, high parking requirements increase the amount of land that must be purchased for housing or trigger the need for structured parking, which adds $20,000 to $40,000 per space to the project's total development costs.

Cities can lower the cost of housing near transit by adopting parking standards that reflect the greater likelihood that residents in well-designed, transit-oriented developments will use transit. Presently, nearly two-thirds of Bay Area households living within ½ mile of transit stations own one car or fewer. Parking minimums for transit zones should not exceed this ratio.

Policies should lower minimums for developments that "unbundle" parking

When parking spaces are sold or rented separately from housing units there is evidence that demand drops. Granting lower parking minimums for unbundled parking rewards developers with lower costs, and helps households that don't require parking save on the final price of their unit.

Case Studies

Southern California


  • Los Angeles County allows a 40% parking reduction for new residential development, and a 60% reduction for some commercial and civic activities in TOD districts established around the Metro Blue Line stations at Slauson, Florence, Firestone and Imperial.
  • The City of San Diego reduced its parking requirements by .25 spaces per dwelling unit for Transit Areas or Very Low Income housing.
  • The City of Santa Monica reduced parking for two bedroom affordable housing units from 2 spaces per unit to 1.5 spaces per unit.

Portland, Maine

Danforth on High is a 26-unit development under construction in downtown Portland, ME, just a few blocks from four major bus lines. In order to help keep the cost of the units affordable, the City of Portland allowed the developer to reduce the parking rate, from 1 space per unit to 0.5, and to unbundle parking from the units themselves. Instead, two spaces will be occupied by shared cars owned by the condo association and rented to residents on an hourly basis. The rest of the project's 14 parking spaces will be sold at a price that reflects their cost of construction.

St. Louis, Missouri

Baseball Lofts St. Louis

In St. Louis, developer McGowan|Walsh built the "Ballpark Lofts" and sold parking separately from the residential units. When the 750sf-1500sf units went on the market in 2006, 20-25% of buyers opted out of buying parking spaces, which were selling for $18,000. The project is located just a block from the MetroLink public transit system, making it a perfect candidate for reduced residential parking.

San Francisco, California

Reduced Parking

The Curran House in San Francisco's Tenderloin District is an affordable housing project in a transit-rich neighborhood that has no on-site parking. The decision to seek a parking variance from the city in order to unbundle parking made the project possible by saving several million dollars in construction costs. In addition, with the extra space, the architects from David Baker and Partners were able to accommodate additional units, gardens, common space for supportive services, neighborhood-serving retail, and office space for the building's non-profit developer, the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation.

Policies should lower parking minimums for developments that have shared parking facilities, or on-site, car share services

Shared parking facilities can help reduce the cost of housing in transit districts by allowing parking to be provided off-site and less expensively than the alternative of integrating it into each housing development. Some communities have experimented with shared parking districts in which multiple developers combine their respective parking units into one structure. Homeowners or renters can "opt-in" to the parking, at a price. Structures can also be built for complementary users, like offices and housing developments, to allow for each use to take advantage of the other's slack parking supply. Cities sometimes create parking assessment districts to finance the construction of city-built, shared parking facilities.

Case Studies

San Leandro, California

In 2007, the City of San Leandro adopted a TOD Strategy for its downtown core. Centered around a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station and local bus lines, the strategy was part of a larger project to revitalize downtown with increased business investment and housing development. The City recognized the financial and spatial constraints that its existing parking policies placed on development and therefore made a number of important changes in its TOD strategy, including the use of shared parking facilities. Rather than requiring parking needs to be met on site, the strategy encourages the construction/use of parking facilities that are shared between commercial tenants, residential visitors, and BART commuters, who would enjoy preference during BART's core hours of operation. The strategy document identifies funding mechanisms for creating shared parking facilities, potential locations for new parking structures, and existing parking facilities that could be enhanced for shared use.

Policies should impose parking maximums to prevent the oversupply of parking

Even when zoning codes allow lower parking ratios, pressure from residents in surrounding neighborhoods can sometimes lead developers to provide higher levels of parking than necessary. Maximum parking standards help prevent the oversupply of parking and have been used by many cities, including San Antonio, Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. Maximum ratios could be used in transit areas to insulate developers from pressures to provide more parking than is needed to serve residents and office workers who have a greater propensity to use transit. San Francisco's new parking policy establishes parking maximums for downtown housing while eliminating parking minimums altogether.

Case Studies

Portland, Oregon

The City of Portland, OR, sets parking maximums based on intensity of development and proximity to transit service. Areas where high intensity development is present/anticipated or areas well served by transit have lower maximums than areas with lower development or where transit is less frequent. Specifically, the city planning and zoning code calls for higher maximums in areas that are more than a 1/4 mile walk from a frequently served bus stop or more than a 1/2 mile walk from a frequently served transit station.

Los Angeles, California

In order to reduce parking around transit, the City of Los Angeles permits one parking space per unit for affordable housing developments within 1,500 feet of a major transit stop.

San Leandro, California

In March 2009, the San Leandro City Council approved construction of a 100-unit, affordable, mixed-use apartment building called "The Alameda." The development is the first stage of a larger transit-oriented development next to the San Leandro Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station called San Leandro Crossings. Reduced parking requirements, which are a major feature of the TOD Strategy adopted by the City in 2007, have played a significant role in making The Crossings and The Alameda viable. Previously, multi-family housing was required to provide 1.5 to 2.5 spaces per unit, depending on the number of bedrooms, whereas the TOD strategy allows a maximum of 1.0-1.5 spaces.

The construction of The Alameda with a parking ratio of 1.02 spaces per unit as opposed to 2.2 spaces as would have been required under the old parking policy, allows for a number of benefits:

  1. Almost $4 million in construction savings
  2. Preservation of pedestrian-friendly ground floor design, featuring a child-care center
  3. Additional housing units
  4. Almost $ 4 million less in public subsidy (a reduction of 1/3)

Without the changes to parking policy outlined in the TOD Strategy, it is unlikely that the City of San Leandro would have had the funds to cover the additional costs of building The Alameda with 2.2 spaces per unit.

Parking Management Plans

Through the development of a Parking Management Plan, a local government can flexibly respond to different variables that influence the amount of parking necessary in a development or in a neighborhood, including differences in auto ownership based on incomes and housing type, the qualities of the place that make it more walkable and pedestrian-oriented, and access and proximity to good transit and a mix of uses that reduce the need for auto-oriented trips. The parking management plan can also outline shared uses where parking spaces are used at night by residents and during the day for commercial and office workers.

A UC Berkeley study found that housing without parking sold for 12% less than comparable units with parking, were affordable to 24% more San Francisco households, and sold an average of 41 days faster than condominium units with parking.

The peak demand for parking spaces in a mixed-use development is usually less than the combined total of the peak demands for the individual uses. This is because the hours when there is high demand for parking at office and commercial uses is roughly complementary to the hours when there is a high demand for parking at residential uses. As such, cities can promote housing affordability by lowering overall parking requirements for these developments when shared parking facilities are built.

Parking Benefit Districts

Parking benefit districts (PBDs) can be implemented in either commercial or residential districts. In either case, a city returns all or a portion of the parking revenue generated through meters or non-resident passes to fund improvements for maintenance, security, streetscape beautification, transit, etc., in a specific area. When implemented in mixed-use transit zones, PBDs can make transit facilities more accessible to low-income families and others, as people are willing to take advantage of public transit if physical improvements help its perception as a safe, approachable, attractive transportation option.

Case Studies

Austin, Texas

The City of Austin wanted to increase the density of its West Campus neighborhood but needed funds to pay for streetscape improvements that would make the pedestrian environment more livable with increased residential density. In consultation with residents and neighborhood businesses, the city established a Parking Benefit District (PBD) in January 2006 as part of its strategy. The revenue from parking meters in the PBD is accrued in a Capital Improvement Project Fund dedicated to pedestrian, bike, and transportation improvements in the neighborhood. On an as-needed basis, the neighborhood will have an opportunity to inform staff and the City Council if they want to use the revenue for improvements or wait until more revenue is collected.

Pasadena, California

The City of Pasadena and the Business Improvement District (BID) in Old Pasadena, the city's historic downtown, established a parking meter zone with the same boundaries as the BID. Meter rates are $1 per hour and operate evenings and Sundays. The city borrowed money to pay for parking meter installation and other improvements, and used the meter revenue to pay off the debt. In 2001, the meters generated $1.3 million, $1,867 per meter, while total capital and operating costs for collecting the revenue amounted to $383 per meter. Including investment earnings and revenue from valet parking at meters, Old Pasadena collected a net revenue of $1.2 million, or $1,712 per meter. This revenue funds the annual debt service on the money borrowed for improvements, increased public services in the district, and BID activities such as sidewalk improvements, street maintenance and marketing.