Are TODs Overparked?

Throughout Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, dozens of transit stations can be found, many with acres of parking spaces associated with them. Some of these locations can present prime redevelopment opportunities as the land near these often densely populated areas is extremely valuable.

As this land is built into Transit Oriented Developments (TOD), a major component in the development process is determining the amount of parking that is needed to serve demand. TODs by their very nature are intended to reduce automobile demand by providing a vibrant mixture of housing, retail and employment uses in a condensed footprint – all served by transit – but local jurisdictions have Zoning Codes that typically dictate minimum parking requirements based on individual uses. The strict application of these standards could result in developers constructing an overabundance of parking both at great cost and environmental detriment.

Smart Growth America recently published new research entitled Empty Spaces – Real Parking Needs at Five TODs that quantifies parking demand at five Transit Oriented Developments (TOD) located throughout the United States, including Rhode Island Row in Washington, DC. Each site was selected for this report based on TOD characteristics including dense, multi-story development consisting of mixed-use within a pedestrian-friendly environment. In addition, each location directly abuts a transit station that had been in operation since before the development, and is fully-developed with self-contained parking.

Researchers reviewed trip characteristics and peak parking demand to draw comparisons to both recommendations by Parking Generation published by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and the actual on-site parking supply. The findings show that when compared to ITE, the sites’ peak parking demand represents a range of 45.8% to 19.0% of ITE’s recommended requirements. This reduced demand is primarily attributed to lower vehicular demand and shared parking at TODs.

When compared to actual supply, the peak parking occupancy represented a range from 84.0% to 58.3% of the available spaces – meaning at least 16.0% and up to 41.7% of parking spaces remained unoccupied at all times within individual sites.

What does this research mean? While the sample is relatively small, it is clear that when compared to available parking supply, TODs are overparked. The findings can certainly be used as a starting point for developers, planners and government officials to make more informed decisions with regard to parking supply at TODs to ensure adequate parking is available without the associated negative ramifications of requiring unused spaces.

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