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Cars parked at the side of the street

Parking is the act of stopping and disengaging a vehicle and usually leaving it unoccupied. Parking on one or both sides of a road is often permitted, though sometimes with restrictions. Some buildings have parking facilities for use of the buildings' users. Countries and local governments have rules[1] for design and use of parking spaces.

Car parking is essential to car-based travel. Cars are typically stationary around 95 per cent of the time.[2] The availability and price of car parking may support car dependency.[3] Significant amounts of urban land are devoted to car parking; in many North American city centers, half or more of all land is devoted to car parking.[4]

Parking facilities[edit]

A parking garage in Gloucester, England
Parking lot in New York City with capacity multiplied by stacking with lifts
An underground parking garage at the University of Minnesota
A car elevator in a parking garage

Parking facilities can be divided into public parking and private parking.[5]

  • Public parking is managed by local government authorities and available for all members of the public to drive to and park in.
  • Private parking is owned by a private entity. It may be available for use by the public or restricted to customers, employees or residents.

Such facilities may be on-street parking, located on the street, or off-street parking, located in a parking lot or parking garage.

On-street parking[edit]

Cars parked on the sidewalk in Moscow.

On-street parking can come in the form of curbside or central parking.

Curbside parking may be parallel, angled or perpendicular parking. Parallel parking is often considered a complicated maneuver for drivers, however uses the least road width.[6]

On-street parking can act as inexpensive traffic calming by reducing the effective width of the street.[7]

On-street parking may be restricted for a number of reasons. Restrictions could include waiting prohibitions, which ban parking in certain areas; time restrictions; requirements to pay, e.g. at a Parking meter or using a pay by phone facility; or a permit zone, restricting parking to permit holders - often residents - only. Parking restrictions may be applied across a whole zone using a controlled parking zone or similar.

On-street parking is often criticised for being a bad use of high-value public space, especially where parking is free. In some cities, authorities have replaced parking spaces with Parklets.[8]

Parking lots and garages[edit]

Parking lots (or car parks) generally come in either a structured or surface regime.

Structured regimes are buildings in which vehicles can be parked, including multi-storey parking garages, underground parking or a hybrid of the two. Such structures may be incorporated into a wider structure.

In the U.S., after the first public parking garage for motor vehicles was opened in Boston, May 24, 1898, livery stables in urban centers began to be converted into garages.[9] In cities of the Eastern US, many former livery stables, with lifts for carriages, continue to operate as garages today.

Surface regimes involve using a clear lot to provide a single level of parking. This may be a stand-alone car park or located around a building.

There is a wide international vocabulary for multi-storey parking garages. In the Midwestern United States, they are known as parking ramp. In the United Kingdom, they are known as multi-storey car parks. In the Western US, they are called parking structures. In New Zealand, they are known as parking buildings. In Canada and South Africa, they are known as parkades.

Fringe parking[edit]

Fringe parking is an area for parking usually located outside the central business district and most often used by suburban residents who work or shop downtown.

Park and ride[edit]

A station car park in Hamburg allows people to park and take the train into the centre.

Park and ride is a concept of parking whereby people drive or cycle to a car park away from their destination and use public transport or another form of transport, such as bicycle hire schemes, to complete their journey. This is done to reduce the amount of traffic congestion and the need for parking in city centres and to connect more people to public transport networks who may not be otherwise.

Bicycle parking[edit]

Parking lots specifically for bicycles are becoming more prevalent in many countries. These may include bicycle parking racks and locks, as well as more modern technologies for security and convenience.[10] For instance, one bicycle parking lot in Tokyo has an automated parking system.[11]

Certain parking lots or garages may contain parking facilities for other vehicles, such as bicycle parking. Underneath Utrecht Central station, there is a three-storey underground bicycle park which can store 12,656 bicycles.[12]

Types of parking[edit]

In addition to basic car parking, variations of serviced parking types exist. Common serviced parking types are:

Parking spaces within car parks may be variously arranged.


Free parking has hidden societal costs

Parking is one of the most important Intermediate goods in the modern market economy. Early economic analysis treated parking only as an end-of-trip cost. However, later work has recognised that parking is a major use of land in any urban area.[13] According to the International Parking Institute, "parking is a $25 billion industry and plays a pivotal role in transportation, building design, quality of life and environmental issues".[14] Annual parking revenue in the US alone is $10 billion.[15]

In urban areas, car parks compete with each other and curbside parking spaces. Drivers do not want to walk far from where they have parked, giving car parks local monopoly power.[13]

Urban parking spaces can have a high value where the price of land is high. The prices in Boston for parking spaces have always been high; in August 2020, the asking price ranged just under US$39,000 in the West End to almost $250,000 in the South End.[16] According to Parkopedia's 2019 Global Parking Index, the cost for 2 hours of parking in USD$ for the top 25 global cities is as follows:[17]

Country City Price
United States New York $34.94
Australia Sydney $27.37
Australia Brisbane $20.55
United States Chicago $20.08
Australia Melbourne $19.87
United States Boston $18.36
United Kingdom London $16.92
United States Washington DC $15.56
United States Philadelphia $14.77
Japan Tokyo $12.09
United States Denver $11.87
Netherlands Amsterdam $11.11
United States Miami $11.10
United States San Francisco $10.99
United States San Diego $10.80
United States Baltimore $10.45
France Paris $10.10
United States Newark $10.10
New Zealand Auckland $9.77
Canada Calgary $9.69
Canada Montreal $9.66
United States Los Angeles $9.56
Canada Toronto $9.51
United States Seattle $9.34
Norway Oslo $9.25
The cost of motor vehicle parking plays a major role in transportation choices (US, 1999 dollars). The value above the line represents the out-of-pocket cost per trip for each mode of transportation, while the value below the line accounts for subsidies, environmental impact, social and indirect costs.[18]

In the graph to the right or below the value above the line represents the out-of-pocket cost per trip, per person for each mode of transportation; the value below the line shows subsidies, environmental impact, social and indirect costs. When cities charge market rates for on-street parking and municipal parking garages for motor vehicles, and when bridges and tunnels are tolled for these modes, driving becomes less competitive in terms of out-of-pocket costs compared to other modes of transportation. When municipal motor vehicle parking is underpriced and roads are not tolled, the shortfall in tax expenditures by drivers, through fuel tax and other taxes might be regarded as a very large subsidy for automobile use: much greater than common subsidies for the maintenance of infrastructure and discounted fares for public transportation.[18]

Parking price elasticity[edit]

The average response in parking demand to a change in price (parking price elasticity) is -0.52 for commuting and -0.62 for non-commuting trips. Non-commuters also respond to parking fees by changing their parking duration if the price is per hour.[19]

Performance parking[edit]

Donald C. Shoup in 2005 argued in his book, The High Cost of Free Parking, against the large-scale use of land and other resources in urban and suburban areas for motor vehicle parking.[4] Shoup's work has been popularized along with market-rate parking and performance parking, both of which raise and lower the price of metered street parking with the goal of reducing cruising for parking and double parking without overcharging for parking.

Electronic Parking System exit gate

"Performance parking" or variable-rate parking is based on Shoup's ideas. Electronic parking meters are used so that parking spaces in desirable locations and at desirable times are more expensive than less desirable locations. Other variations include rising rates based on duration of parking. More modern ideas use sensors and networked parking meters that "bid up" (or down) the price of parking automatically with the goal of keeping 85–90% of the spaces in use at any given time to ensure perpetual parking availability. These ideas have been implemented in Redwood City, California[20] and are being implemented in San Francisco[21] and Los Angeles.[22]

One empirical study supports performance-based pricing by analyzing the block-level price elasticity of parking demand in the SFpark context.[23] The study suggests that block-level elasticities vary so widely that urban planners and economists cannot accurately predict the response in parking demand to a given change in price. The public policy implication is that planners should utilize observed occupancy rates in order to adjust prices so that target occupancy rates are achieved. Effective implementation will require further experimentation with and assessment of the tâtonnement process.


The management of parking as a land use is an aspect of urban planning.

Municipal parking regulation introduced controls for parking on public land, often funded through parking meters. However, with the growth of car use, the supply of on-street parking became insufficient to meet demand. City centre merchants called on municipalities to subsidise car parking in the city centre to facilitate competition against new forms of car-centric commercial development.[24]

Parking is a heavy land use. The total land area of parking in the US is at least the size of Massachusetts.

Off-street parking can be a temporary usage for a land owner to extract value from a vacant lot.[24]

Parking restrictions[edit]

A parking space reserved for milk trucks at a Montebello cheese production facility. The French wording says "Camion à lait", which means "Milk truck").

During the winter of 2005 in Boston, the practice of some people saving convenient roadway for themselves became controversial. At that time, many Boston districts had an informal convention that if a person shoveled the snow out of a roadspace, that person could claim ownership of that space with a marker.[25] However, city government defied that custom and cleared markers out of spaces.[26]

Parking minimums and maximums[edit]

In congested urban areas parking of motor vehicles is time-consuming and often expensive. Urban planners who are in a position to override market forces must consider whether and how to accommodate or "demand manage" potentially large numbers of motor vehicles in small geographic areas. Usually, the authorities set minimum, or more rarely maximum, numbers of motor vehicle parking spaces for new housing and commercial developments, and may also plan their location and distribution to influence their convenience and accessibility. The costs or subsidies of such parking accommodations can become a heated point in local politics. For example, in 2006 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors considered a controversial zoning plan to limit the number of motor vehicle parking spaces available in new residential developments.[27]

Tradeable parking allowances have been proposed[28] for dense residential areas to reduce inequity and increase urban livability. In summary, each resident would receive an annual, fractional allowance for on-street parking. To park on the street, one must assemble a whole parking allowance by purchasing fractional allowances from others who do not own cars.

Parking by country[edit]


German municipalities have variegated transport cultures and policies, however common federal laws govern the use of street space and the rights of motorists. German law privileges parked cars as traffic and constrains the ability of municipal governments to implement diverse parking policies.

German legal principles determine that the use of public streets is for traffic, including car parking. Consequently, German motorists tend to assert a right to park for free on the public highway.[29]


In Japan, since 1962, to buy a car, one is required to obtain a "garage certificate" (shako shomeisho) from their local prefecture's police, providing proof of their own off-street parking space that they either buy or rent, that is not located more than 2 kilometers from their place of residence. Kei cars can be exempted from parking space requirement in some sparsely-populated areas. Overnight street parking is not allowed.[30][31][32]

United Kingdom[edit]

United States[edit]

In some jurisdictions, those in possession of the proper ID tags or license plates are also free from parking violation tickets for running over their metered time or parking in an inappropriate place, as some disabilities may prohibit the use of regular spaces. Illegally parking in a disabled parking space or fraudulent use of another person's permit is heavily fined.

South Korea[edit]

Shortage of parking lots[edit]

In South Korea, there are many more vehicles than there are parking lots in the country, so parking lots are sometimes created as a way to utilize empty spaces where people are playing.[33]

Discount system[edit]

There are not many compact cars in Korea, so the government is providing a lot of support for them, and the parking lot discount system for them is an example of that.

  • Full discounts on eco-friendly cars are also active.
  • Electric & Hydrogen & Hybrid vehicles: 50% Off
  • Compact cars: 50% to 60% off

As the number of users of large supermarket chain increased in Korea, the utilization rate of the traditional market sharply decreased. Accordingly, each local government has a large-scale parking lots near the traditional market and provides discounts to users.

  • Traditional market users: 1 hour exemption & 50% off additional 1 hour afterwards

The low birth rate problem in Korea is serious, and there is a lot of support for them.

  • Multi-child households: 50% off
  • Disabled person: 1 hour exemption / 50% off additional 1 hour afterwards
  • Persons of national merit and persons eligible for veterans benefits: 1 hour exemption / 50% discount for additional 1 hour afterwards

Parking at various destinations[edit]


In England, NHS hospitals are permitted to charge patients, staff and visitors for parking at the hospital. This has been criticised for adding extra costs to accessing healthcare. In Scotland and Wales, all hospital parking charges have been abolished.


Long-stay parking at Edinburgh Airport

Most airports provide parking for patrons. Parking is normally split into short-stay parking, intended for those dropping off or picking up passengers, and long-stay parking, intended for staff and passengers who choose to drive to the airport. At larger airports, long-stay parking may be located further away from the terminal, while parking at the terminal will be more expensive. Some airports charge more for parking cars than for parking aircraft.[34] Airports may be reluctant to discourage passengers from arriving at the airport by car due to the revenues generated.[35]

At UK airports, it is rare for employees to pay for their car parking. Generally, the airports authority will charge for staff permits, but these permits will be purchased by employers and the cost not passed on to staff. Staff are generally more willing to park at a site away from the airport than passengers too.[35]


Parking Generation is a document produced by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) that assembles a vast array of parking demand observations predominately from the United States. It summarizes the amount of parking observed with various land uses at different times of the day/week/month/year including the peak parking demand. While it has been assailed by some planners for lack of data in urban settings, it stands as the single largest accumulation of actual parking demand data related to land use. Anyone can submit parking demand data for inclusion. The report is updated approximately every 5 to 10 years.

Finding parking[edit]

A sign indicating that no parking is allowed on a lane

When the supply of kerbside parking in a particular area is less than the demand for parking, a phenomenon known as cruising occurs, where drivers drive on streets in search of a parking space. It can also occur where there is supply of kerbside space, but parking restriction or payment costs discourage drivers from parking there.[36]

Cruising is an economic decision, with the cost of parking dominant in determining cruising behaviour. This is grounded in the principle that drivers will only cruise if the cost of cruising is lower than the savings of not parking in available chargeable spaces.[36] Drivers are more likely to cruise if on-street parking is cheaper than off-street parking, the costs of fuel are cheap, the driver wishes to park for longer, the driver is alone in the car and the driver's time is not valuable to them.[37] Cruising can be diminished if the cost of on-street parking is set equal to the cost of off-street parking.[36]

Automated Parking Guidance systems present drivers with dynamic information on parking within controlled areas (like parking garages and parking lots). The systems combine traffic monitoring, communication, processing and variable message sign technologies to provide the service.

Mobile apps and parking booking platforms that help drivers find parking take different approaches have emerged.[38]

Some connected cars have mobile apps associated with the in-car system, that can locate the car or indicate the last place it was parked. Cars with Internavi communicate to each other indicating recently vacated spots.

San Francisco uses a system called SFpark, which has sensors embedded in the roadway. It allows drivers to find parking via mobile app, website, or SMS, and includes "smart" parking meters and garages that use variable pricing based on time and location to keep approximately 15% of parking spaces open. Some South Boston spots also have sensors, so users of an app called Parker can find vacancies.[39]

Ford Motor Company is developing a system called Parking Spotter, which allows vehicles to upload parking spot information into the cloud for other drivers to access.[40]

Parking guidance and information system provides information about the availability of parking spaces within a controlled area. The systems may include vehicle detection sensors that can count the number of available spaces and display the information on various signs. There may be indicator lights that can lead drivers to an exact available spot.[citation needed]

An amusing alliterative slang term for finding an ideal parking spot directly in front of ones destination is Doris Day parking named for the American singer and actor who in numerous romantic comedy films was shown to immediately drive into the perfect spot time after time.[41][42]

Statistically, the optimal strategy is to drive past the first empty spot and park in the next available spot.[43][44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Roads in the Neo-Assyrian Empire (ca. 700 BC) bore signs stating "Royal Road. Let no man lessen it." The penalty for illegal use was "death by impalement on a stake." Lay, M. G. (1992). Ways of the World: A History of the World's Roads and of the Vehicles That Used Them. United States: Rutgers University Press. p. 184.
  2. ^ Paul, Barter (2013-02-22). ""Cars are parked 95% of the time". Let's check!". Reinventing parking. Retrieved 2021-11-09.
  3. ^ Hagman, Olle (2006-03-01). "Morning Queues and Parking Problems. On the Broken Promises of the Automobile". Mobilities. 1 (1): 63–74. doi:10.1080/17450100500489247. ISSN 1745-0101. S2CID 111368651.
  4. ^ a b The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald C. Shoup
  5. ^ "How parking is managed". www.britishparking.co.uk. Retrieved 2021-10-24.
  6. ^ "Parallel Parking | AA". www.theaa.com. Retrieved 2021-10-24.
  7. ^ Untermann, Richard (1997). "Street Wise: Traffic Calming Basics". Planning Commissioners Journal. 26: 12–14.
  8. ^ "Op-Ed: Why 'Parklets' for Recreational Use Should Replace Some Parking Spaces". NJ Spotlight News. 2020-07-21. Retrieved 2021-10-24.
  9. ^ Shannon Sanders McDonald: The parking garage. Design and evolution of a modern urban form, Washington 2007, p. 7-21
  10. ^ "The Guide to Parking Lots". Discount Park & Ride. 9 January 2015. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  11. ^ "Invisible Bicycles: Tokyo's High-Tech Underground Bike Parking". Web Urbanist. 26 March 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  12. ^ "World's biggest bicycle park built below Utrecht train station". Dezeen. 2019-09-12. Retrieved 2021-10-24.
  13. ^ a b Inci, Eren (2015-03-01). "A review of the economics of parking". Economics of Transportation. Special Issue on Collective Contributions in the Honor of Richard Arnott. 4 (1): 50–63. doi:10.1016/j.ecotra.2014.11.001. ISSN 2212-0122.
  14. ^ "IPI". International Parking Institute.
  15. ^ van Rooij, Rogier (17 November 2017). "Why New Parking Facilities Should Be Recyclable". Cleantechnica. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  16. ^ "How much does it cost to buy a parking space in Boston?". Constantine Valhouli. Retrieved 2021-09-13.
  17. ^ "Global Parking Index 2019". Parkopedia. Retrieved 2021-01-21.
  18. ^ a b Graph based on data from Vukan R. Vuchic, Transportation for Livable Cities, p. 76. 1999. ISBN 0-88285-161-6
  19. ^ Lehner, S.; Peer, S. (2019), The price elasticity of parking: A meta-analysis, Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Volume 121, March 2019, Pages 177-191" web|url=https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tra.2019.01.014
  20. ^ "Redwood City Redevelopment | Downtown Parking". Ci.redwood-city.ca.us. Archived from the original on 2010-04-23. Retrieved 2013-01-12.
  21. ^ "SFpark". SFpark. 2012-12-17. Archived from the original on 2013-01-04. Retrieved 2013-01-12.
  22. ^ "LADOT ParkingInfo". Expresspark.lacity.org. Retrieved 2013-01-12.
  23. ^ Shriver, Adam. "Understanding the Block-Level Price Elasticity of On-Street Parking Demand: A Case Study of San Francisco's SFpark Project". ResearchGate. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  24. ^ a b Mapes, Jennifer (2006). "Review of LOTS OF PARKING: Land Use in a Car Culture". Material Culture. 38 (2): 100–102. ISSN 0883-3680. JSTOR 29764358.
  25. ^ "Snow chairs". Boston Online. Archived from the original on 2008-02-20. Retrieved 2008-04-10.
  26. ^ Finer, Jonathan (2005-01-01). "Boston Fights Winter Parking Tradition". Washington Post. pp. A02. Retrieved 2008-04-10.[dead link]
  27. ^ Vega, Cecilia (2006-02-07). "Supes to consider limit on parking spaces at new buildings". San Francisco Chronicle. pp. B–2. Retrieved 2008-04-10.
  28. ^ Barrrett, Kirk (2018). "Feasibility of tradeable on-street parking allowances in dense residential areas to reduce inequity and increase urban livability". Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  29. ^ Taylor, Dr Elizabeth (2021-02-01). "Free parking for free people: German road laws and rights as constraints on local car parking management". Transport Policy. 101: 23–33. doi:10.1016/j.tranpol.2020.11.013. ISSN 0967-070X. S2CID 229435303.
  30. ^ Barter, Paul (2014-06-04). "Japan's proof-of-parking rule has an essential twin policy". Retrieved 2024-06-19.
  31. ^ "JDM 4 all | Getting garage certificate". JDM 4 all. Retrieved 2024-06-19.
  32. ^ "Japan's Proof-of-Parking rule (shako shomeisho)". Parking Reform Atlas. Retrieved 2024-06-19.
  33. ^ Korea Tip of the Day: Know your colors of parking spots - Stripes Korea
  34. ^ "Letters: Cheaper to park a plane than a car at airport". The Age. Melbourne. 2012-04-21. Archived from the original on 2014-01-01. Retrieved 2012-04-21.
  35. ^ a b Aldridge, K.; Carreno, M.; Ison, S.; Rye, T.; Straker, I. (2006-11-01). "Car parking management at airports: A special case?". Transport Policy. 13 (6): 511–521. doi:10.1016/j.tranpol.2006.05.002. ISSN 0967-070X.
  36. ^ a b c Lee, Jinwoo (Brian); Agdas, Duzgun; Baker, Douglas (2017-10-25). "Cruising for parking: New empirical evidence and influential factors on cruising time". Journal of Transport and Land Use. 10 (1). doi:10.5198/jtlu.2017.1142. hdl:11299/191066. ISSN 1938-7849.
  37. ^ Shoup, Donald C. (2006-11-01). "Cruising for parking". Transport Policy. 13 (6): 479–486. doi:10.1016/j.tranpol.2006.05.005. ISSN 0967-070X. S2CID 18868912.
  38. ^ "Parking App Haystack Banned in Boston". Boston.com. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  39. ^ "Do new parking apps pass the test? - The Boston Globe". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  40. ^ Autoblog Staff (14 April 2015). "Translogic 174: Ford envisions the future of parking". Autoblog. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  41. ^ Bill, Tony, 1940- (2008). Movie speak : how to talk like you belong on a film set : and get invited to the four-banger. New York: Workman Pub. ISBN 9780761156307. OCLC 759839493.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  42. ^ "Los Angeles Wants Its 'Doris Day' Parking". Los Angeles Times. 2002-03-30. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
  43. ^ "Where to park your car, according to math". Phys.org. 20 September 2019. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  44. ^ Krapivsky, P.L.; Redner, S (19 September 2019). "Simple parking strategies". Journal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiment. 2019 (9): 093404. arXiv:1904.06612. Bibcode:2019JSMTE..09.3404K. doi:10.1088/1742-5468/ab3a2a. S2CID 118597754.

Further reading[edit]

External videos
video icon Q&A interview with Henry Grabar on Paved Paradise, June 11, 2023, C-SPAN

External links[edit]