Urbanism Next
University of OregonUniversity of Oregon

Parking & Urban Form

How will the reduced need for parking caused by the proliferation of new mobility technologies impact urban form?


Businesses are adjusting their physical spaces to accommodate the new norm of physical distancing in many ways, from repurposing parking lots for dining to changing building layouts to allow for quick pick-up of meals and goods. Urbanism Next explores how urban design is changing from Covid-19 and what changes might stick in the future on the Covid-19 Impacts: Urban Design page.

To learn more about how Covid-19 is changing urban areas, from transportation to building design and real estate, read Urbanism Next's two new reports in the Covid-19 – Impacts on Cities and Suburbs series, Key Takeaways Across Multiple Sectors and Impacts to the Urbanism Next Framework.

What is driving change?

Change in Parking Demand

The demand for parking is predicted to drop as much as 90% as transportation network companies (TNCs) and autonomous vehicles (AVs) reduce the need to store cars at destinations. Parking has become a primary determinant of urban development, so a change in parking demand will have dramatic effects on urban design.

Change in Ease of Travel

Transportation network companies (TNCs) have already increased the ease of accessing on-demand door-to-door rides, and autonomous vehicles (AVs) may further increase the ease of travel. AVs may increase travel speeds to and from the periphery, raise the acceptability of increased commute times as drivers become riders who can make better use of their travel time, and reduce the need of labor’s proximity to employment. All of this may result in AVs allowing travelers to more easily reach further into the periphery and could have a dramatic impact on the extent of sprawl and the expanse of the metropolitan footprint.

Reduction of Brick-and-Mortar Stores

As a larger share of retail shifts to e-commerce, the number of stores could diminish and locations that are marginal today could no longer be viable. This could impact the vitality of urban areas with less people on the street and less storefronts that help generate street-level activity.

Future Changes

What Could Happen?

  • More land could become available for other uses. The potential to redevelop parking expands as the demand for parking wanes, but the ability to redevelop these parcels may depend on both the configuration of parking and its location. Large expanses of parking in individual lots or in front of stores can be redeveloped fairly easily, while smaller strips of parking around buildings, in irregular shapes, or in parking structures may be much more difficult to redevelop. Additionally, parking lots in central cities and urban cores have a higher chance of experiencing demand for other uses and might easily become housing or office space. Suburban areas could see slower redevelopment as there may be less development pressure and they have larger amounts of parking overall, flooding the market with available land when parking is no longer needed. Creating new parks, open spaces, and green stormwater infrastructure could also be development opportunities for former parking lots.
  • Buildings could move to the street. As parking needs are reduced or eliminated, buildings will no longer need to be located far from the street to accommodate sprawling parking areas in front of them. Buildings could now be built directly on or near the street, creating continuous street fronts that invite pedestrian use. This would have the most dramatic effect on suburban areas that are characterized by large building setbacks from the street.
  • Gaps in the urban fabric could be removed. Parking lots in urban areas could be reduced or eliminated, filling these gaps in the urban fabric with new buildings. This increases the number of uses and destinations in an urban area, reduces the distances people would need to travel to these types of destinations, and would create more inviting, transit friendly, and walkable environments. The ability to do this within existing development may vary depending on the size and configuration of parking. Large expanses of parking in individual lots or in front of stores could be redeveloped fairly easily, while smaller strips of parking around buildings or in irregular shapes may be much more difficult to redevelop.
  • Building mass and density could increase. The reduction of parking needs makes it possible to build more development on a given parcel. Thus, housing and commercial uses are no longer limited by how much parking they must provide and former parking spaces can now hold new development. This increases the density of building mass in a given area, helping create more compact, transit friendly, and walkable development.


  • More parking is linked to auto-dependent urban form. High parking minimums push buildings back from the street and make transit and pedestrian access both difficult and univiting. As parking minimums increase, urban form becomes less compact and more auto-dependent.
  • Urban areas are reducing or eliminated parking minimums. Although not always due to new mobility, many municipalities around the country are reducing parking requirements in their downtowns and some cite TNCs and new mobility as some of the reasons for these changes. 
  • High minimum parking requirements are linked to reduced development densities. Parking takes up space that could otherwise be used for additional units. This is especially true for smaller units where the difference between zero to two minimum parking spaces per unit can reduce development densities by more than 40%.

Quick facts

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

  • The use of shared autonomous vehicles could decrease parking needs by up to 90% if the shared model achieves even modest market penetration.
  • Autonomous vehicle parking could also reduce the amount of parking space required by 62% by allowing for much tighter parking conditions within structures such as parking garages.

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 Parking & Urban Form:

More about what to do »


Policies, pilots, and approaches

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