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Cities eliminate excess garages and lots

Urban centers are finally relaxing zoning laws that caused an unnecessary boom in parking spots

Parking lots. The vast expanses of asphalt dot the land like squares of barren earth. But when was the last time you saw an entirely full parking lot? A series of studies in recent years have shown that the supply of parking spots has outpaced demand for years. Now, cities are beginning to do something about it.

Especially in the U.S., many urban areas have written parking space requirements into zoning laws so that nearly every new development is obliged to include parking. Such practices lead to an estimated 800 million parking spaces in the country—some 25,000 square miles of land (roughly the size of West Virginia).

But with more and more cities radically rethinking their relationship to cars, the surplus of parking spots may be on the decline. After a 2010 parking census identified that half of San Francisco’s on-street spots were empty, city planners moved to replace many of them with bike lanes and mini-parks.

Philadelphia’s own parking surveys have shown a steady decrease in the demand for parking as the city improved its public transit and walkability over the last 5 years.

European cities like Copenhagen and Zurich are actively eliminating the creation of additional parking spaces. Paris has erased some 15,000 parking spots since 2003.