A recent article from the Economist focuses on one of the challenges facing development in American Cities: Parking minimums.  As economic growth in the United States continues to be driven by our cities, new developments that both accelerate economic growth and keep the character and livability of the city in question are key. As parking spaces and facilities can be a significant expense for developers, the differing requirements of cities and states across the country can make or break a project before it has been proposed.

Parking Minimums vary widely across the United States. According to Donald Shoup of the UCLA Department of Urban Planning, cities and towns set parking minimums on everything from convents to slaughterhouses. Many cities rely on guidelines on the Institute of Transportation Engineers, which recommends parking minimums like 0.85 parking space per seat in church, or 2.6 parking spaces per hospital bed. These guidelines are drawn from surveys of parking use in suburban areas at peak demand, in areas with little to no public transit options available.  That’s not an accurate representation of the modern urban city.  Alternatively, cities just copy the parking minimums from other cities nearby, potentially compounding misestimates.

What cities need is real-time data on how parking spaces are actually used, hour by hour, day by day, especially in their downtowns and most congested areas.  Smart parking solutions like Streetline’s ParkSight focus on delivering detailed analytics to city governments on parking data that lets them adjust city planning and resources.  Amongst other things, this lets cities set their parking minimums for new developments on real-time occupancy, demand and turnover information. Data-driven insights can help municipalities craft nimble planning strategies to fit mixed-use developments into limited spaces in their downtown, driving economic growth while maintain the quality of life of neighborhoods.

Parking regulations are like all other types of regulations: Good policy requires good data. And good data comes from studying your own city.