Urbanism Next
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Auto-Oriented Land Uses

How will land use patterns shift if land previously dedicated to auto-oriented uses becomes available for redevelopment?


What is driving change?

Change in Parking Demand

Our past and current reliance on single occupancy automobiles for transportation has had a strong impact on land use patterns and the amount of land we use for parking. The change in parking demand due to transportation network companies (TNCs) and eventually autonomous vehicles (AVs) could drastically impact zoning and development regulations and reshape our land use patterns by shifting where we store vehicles (parking lots and curb space), and how much land we use for automobile-oriented functions.

Shift in Modes

With the increased availability of both shared micromobility programs and on-demand rides, modal shifts may occur. The deployment of AVs may also lead to a decrease in personal vehicle ownership, which may reduce the amount of land used for auto-oriented purposes such as gas stations, dealerships, and others. These changes may free up land to be redeveloped for other uses.

Reduction of Brick-and-Mortar Stores

The expansion of e-commerce has coincided with closures in brick-and mortar stores. Store closures create vacancies and redevelopment opportunities, and cities may need to consider how they zone for retail space.

Future Changes

What Could Happen?

  • The demand for gas stations and other auto-oriented land uses could decrease, opening up land for redevelopment. If AVs are primarily electric, a shift in fuel type may reorient the land uses related to gasoline. Rather than gas stations, AVs may rely on charging stations. The shift from gasoline as a fuel source may lead to vacancies in gas stations. This could result in the creation of potential brownfields in need of remediation and redevelopment.
  • If AVs park more efficiently than traditional vehicles, land previously used for parking could be redeveloped. This is especially true if AVs can park in closer proximity to a destination as well. The overall number of parking garages could decrease as AVs become more widespread since more vehicles may, conceivably, be able to fit into less space.
  • As the demand for parking declines with the adoption of AVs, the location of vehicle storage may shift. Parking may shift from dispersed on- and off-street locations to concentrated hubs with electric charging and vehicle storage. Fleet storage may be located across the metropolitan area, possibly on cheaper land at the edge. The design and location of vehicle storage will depend on the mix of privately-owned AVs, and AVs owned by ridehailing companies.


  • Gas stations in the United States declined between 1991 and 2012, leaving behind vacant or abandoned lots. While there have been a variety of economic factors contributing to this decline, the increasing sales of electric vehicles is an important one. The EV market is expected to continue to grow, especially given that the average price of EVs has been dropping, which could contribute to additional closures of gasoline stations in the future. Efforts to remediate these sites and redevelop them have resulted in new uses; a former gas station in High Falls, NY that sat abandoned for several years was renovated to make way for new retail, as well as EV charging stations.
  • Some developers and architecture firms are finding ways to repurpose neglected parking garages. Some are also looking to build new parking garages that can be easily adapted to other uses as demand for parking shifts. A former parking garage in Wichita, Kansas was transformed into a 44-unit apartment building featuring exposed concrete ceilings, a reminder of its previous use. In Boston, the Motor Mart Garage is slated to have a 20-story mixed-use tower added on top of the existing structure with the 306 residential units along with retail space and restaurants. And in Hollywood, the new Netflix headquarters were built with two floors of parking that can be readily adapted into additional office space in the future.

Quick facts

Si aliae qui ommolenet que prati aut eossitae optatus daepell uptatur andante comni idebit quid moluptio te am quat facculparum recaecte.

  • Between 1994 and 2015, the number of gas stations in the United States fell from 202,800 to about 150,000—a decline of more than 25%.
  • Light trucks and SUVs still make up 70% of vehicle purchases in the United States, though electric vehicle sales are starting to increase as their prices decrease.

What to do

Si aliae qui ommolenet que prati aut eossitae optatus daepell uptatur andante comni idebit quid moluptio te am quat facculparum recaecte.

Not sure where to start? Below are four What to Do pages that we think are especially relevant to Auto-Oriented Land Uses:

More about what to do »


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