Parking Spaces / Community Places
Finding the Balance Through Smart Growth Solutions
What does parking have to do with the environment? Research and reports from EPA and others show that the way we develop our communities has a major impact on the quality of the natural environment. Regions with walkable, mixed use, compact neighborhoods, towns, and cities, knit together by a robust network of transportation choices, protect human health and the natural environment. Parking policies and requirements can have a strong influence on both the built and natural environment in a community. A better understanding of the influence of parking policies is an important step toward smarter growth.
The approaches described in this report can help communities explore new, flexible parking policies that can encourage growth and balance parking needs with their other goals. The EPA developed this guide for local government officials, planners, and developers in order to:
- demonstrate the significance of parking decisions in development patterns;
- illustrate the environmental, financial, and social impact of parking policies;
- describe strategies for balancing parking with other community goals; and
- provide case studies of places that are successfully using these strategies.
The report begins with a discussion of the demand for parking and a review of the costs of parking. The following sections detail innovative techniques and case studies explain how they have been used to solve parking problems in specific places.
Many communities are evaluating parking issues as part of a broader process of reevaluating their overall goals for growth. Typical parking regulations and codes require a set amount of parking for a given square footage or number of units. It is common for such regulations to assume all trips will be by private automobile, ignoring the neighborhood's particular mix of uses, access to transit and walking, and context within the region. Such inflexible parking requirements can force businesses to provide unneeded parking that wastes space and money and harms the environment.
The case study in this report of the SAFECO Corporation illustrates the potential to use parking policies to save money, improve the environment, and meet broader community goals. SAFECO offers employees a choice between transit, vanpool, and parking benefits. As a result, each year SAFECOs 1700 employees drive about 1.2 million miles less than average commuters in the Seattle region, saving 28 tons of carbon monoxide, a serious pollutant tracked by the EPA. SAFECO also reduced the amount of ground that needed to be paved by 100,000 square feet, leading to less runoff in this rainy area. The company saves an estimated $230,000 per year, after accounting for the costs of incentives and the savings from reducing the amount of parking built.
Hard copies available by sending an email to email@example.com or by calling 800-490-9198. Request EPA publication EPA 231-K-06-001.
For a thorough discussion of the connections between development patterns and environmental quality, download the EPA publication "Our Built and Natural Environments: A Technical Review of the Interactions Between Land Use, Transportation, and Environmental Quality" (PDF) (102 pp, 1.5 MB, About PDF)