Urbanism Next
University of OregonUniversity of Oregon


If the location of housing and commercial buildings becomes less important, design quality may come to the forefront.


What is driving change?

Change in Parking Demand

Minimum required parking is a major constraint in developing properties. The demand for parking appears to be decreasing in certain areas, such as airports, dense downtowns, and areas with concentrated nightlife, as people increasingly choose to use ridehailing services to go to these areas. The cost of providing parking stalls on site can be as much or more than providing similar-sized leasable space, so reducing or eliminating these parking-related costs as demand for parking changes could make many more projects feasible.

Change in Ease of Travel

On one hand, AVs may enable people to travel farther, longer, and more frequently. Commuting to work and traveling for leisure may be less costly, both perceived and real cost, since the travel time can be used more productively for work or leisure. Increased comfort in the travel experience may mean that people are less sensitive to travel distance and more selective about their destination. On the other hand, the reduced demand for parking could result in a greater agglomeration and more intense development, including larger buildings where the increased demand makes such development feasible.

Increasing Interest in Experiential Retail

People are increasingly likely to spend time in experiential retail, as well as in stores that can generate attention by selling limited-offering, specialty, or made-to-suit goods. There could be more mixed-use buildings with experiential retail, high-end restaurants, and bars as developers make complementary services even more convenient and accessible in a single trip.

Future Changes

What Could Happen?

  • Quality and sense of place could become more important factors in real estate value. With less real or perceived transportation costs, people could travel further and longer, thus allowing them to be more discerning about their destinations. This could result in real estate investors focusing on creating the most attractive, unique, and desirable destinations. However, the quality of places can deteriorate if they become too congested or difficult to navigate. An increase in the number of fulfillment centers in urban areas could increase congestion without adding potential retail customers on the streets. And if requirements for drop-off and pick-up facilities take up significant ground floor space, then the relationship between buildings and streets could become even more fraught than it already is.
  • By reducing the need for parking, more space could be dedicated to increasing quality. Decreasing the percentage of a site reserved for parking allows for more space to be used in the primary purpose of the development, such as increasing housing or commercial space, or by adding new features that previously would not have fit.


  • Generational changes in where people live, how they shop, and whether they drive. Millennials are likely to lead the change in demanding quality communities. They are moving from rural communities that require cars to get around to transit-rich cities; car registration is down from 24% to 13% since 2001 for people between 18 and 34 years of age; and they are driving about 22% less during the same time period as well.
  • Retail centers that forego extra parking in favor of better quality and more variety are often more successful. Even without the increased convenience in travel that could be offered by new mobility technologies such as AVs, studies have shown that parking availability is less important to customers than quality. This is not a particularly new development, either—according to a London-based study published in the May 2008 edition of Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, a variety of shops and a better atmosphere was a bigger driver behind the shopping choices of surveyed customers than plentiful parking.
  • The demand for experiential retail is increasing. Companies such as Apple and Microsoft have increasingly moved away from storefronts designed to move as much product as quickly as possible and toward providing interactive, memorable experiences for their customers. This tendency is not confined to smaller retailers, as department stores such as Nordstrom have also started to embrace this approach.

Quick facts

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  • Vehicle registration rates in the United States has fallen by almost 46% among 18-34 year old drivers since 2001, suggesting that nearby quality locations could increase in importance as people drive less.
  • Rural locations are losing ground to more densely developed areas—1,350 of the 1,976 non-metro counties in the United States losing population since 2010.

What to do

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Not sure where to start? Below are four What to Do pages that we think are especially relevant to Quality:

More about what to do »


Policies, pilots, and approaches

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