How much space can you free from car parking? A Calculator to Help You Estimate.
Updated: Mar 16, 2022
Looking at a satellite image of a typical (car-dependent) suburban area or newer urban area built from ~1950s onwards (1) in the US/Canada on Google Maps, you will see a lot of the surface area covered by parking lots and wide streets with car parking. This takes up a lot of space, especially in metropolitan areas like the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater Los Angeles Area where many people want to live, work, and play and can drive the cost of living ridiculously high along with a few other major factors. According to Better Institutions, car parking takes up more surface land area than housing in Los Angeles County (2). The average office rental rate there was $44.88 per square foot at the end of 2020 (3). A typical car parking spot or stall we would see is 18 feet long by 9 feet wide. We also need to add the aisle space, extending the length so that a car has space to enter and back out into. For the usual 2-sided perpendicular parking lot, this ends up being 24 feet, divided two to be 12 feet per stall since cars on both sides share the same space. Not including the surrounding access space and parking lot perimeter, the average parking space takes up (18+12)*9 = 270 square feet. At the office rental rate of $44.88, that ends up being $12,117.60 per parking stall! Almost no individual car driver would be willing to pay $12,117.60 directly each year for a parking spot. A monthly parking spot in a parking garage in LA averaged about $200 per month in 2019 or $2,400 per year (4), a small fraction compared to being used for office space or another much more valuable function.
Now, you might be thinking that your organization provides a lot of car parking and consumes a lot of land or surface space. However, it does not have to stay this way. Cities like San Francisco, Berkeley, and Sacramento in California as well as Buffalo, Hartford, Minneapolis, and Portland have removed car parking minimums (5) (6). Some cities like Los Angeles have adopted minimum bike parking requirements (7) and allow bike parking to count toward minimum parking requirements. Your organization can also file for exceptions and exemptions if it is located in a city with minimum car parking requirements and ensure it is more accessible by walking, biking, and transit.
For the purposes of this post, we will focus on supporting biking with good bike parking to help people change from driving themselves to biking and reduce demand for car parking. Bicycle theft, closely linked to bike parking, was one of the top two deterrents to continuing to bike for transportation in New York (8) (9). While this post will not dive deep into the types of bike parking, the space occupancy range is quite similar. The calculator below will help you estimate the car parking space you can open to change for other, more valuable or less costly purposes such as space for a new building or leaving for nature to reclaim the space instead of maintaining it to be able to hold cars.
If scooters or transit may be better options than biking, you can play with the inputs to still get a roughly good estimate of the space you can free from car parking.
In the table below before the calculator, there are several suggested input ranges to help determine how many bicycle parking spaces and of which type/size to fit into the space freed from car parking and how much space currently allocated to car parking spots can be open for conversion.
Car Parking Stall Length (feet)
18, 20, 22
18 and 20 are the norm. 22 is the minimum for parallel parking
Car Parking Stall Width (feet)
7 - 10
7-8.5 is typical for parallel parking; 9-10 is typical for parking
Car Parking Stall Aisle Width (feet)
11 is typical for parallel parking like on a residential street or alley. 24 is typical for perpendicular parking, regardless of being single-sided or double-sided.
Car Parking Peak Utilization Rate (%)
Depends on your organization and location area
Use 100% for a subset of the total car parking stalls your organization has when repurposing part of existing car parking space with bike parking space; or when estimating the number of people switching from driving to biking to your organization.
Bike Parking Spot Length (feet)
3.5 - 4; 5.5 - 9.5
The 95th percentile of male adults by height ride bikes that are typically up to 6 feet long. In a vertical position, it can be up to 3.5 - 4 feet (height of handlebars from the ground).
Cargo bikes can range up to 9.5 ft long. Bikes with trailers can be even longer.
Bike Parking Spot Width (feet)
1.75 - 3.5
1.75 for average staggered racks ~20” apart.
Typical city requirements range between 2 and 2.5 for racks.
Lockers usually range 3 - 3.5.
Bike Parking Spot Aisle Width (feet)
7 - 16
7 is just enough for slowly backing out of a bike parking spot. 8 or 9 would allow for more comfortable and fast entrances and exits. 12 or more would likely be for cargo bikes or large bike parking lots that allow people to ride up to their spot.
Bike Parking Peak Utilization Rate (%)
Depends on several major factors: type of bike parking, bike parking location, willingness/ability of organization members to bike, bike paths nearby, organizational bike programs, and theft risk level.
Bike parking with security built in and doesn’t require education about locking/bike security in general has led to over 2+ times the utilization rate over good outdoor or public area racks. For knowledge on locking/bike security, check out our posts on active bike security and passive bike security. The vast majority of people do not learn about what lock to use and how to lock their bike most effectively when they begin riding. E-Lockers at BART stations in the San Francisco Bay Area have seen between a 3-4X higher utilization rate as a percentage of their respective capacities as racks in 2018, 2019, and 2021. Valet and actively supervised self-park bike parking have been the most utilized from personal experience.
As for the calculator, the default values are an example of several common figures for dimensions, cost rates, and other amounts. However, you should enter the figures that are likely to vary more widely like the maintenance costs for your organization averaged over the lifetime of a car parking space (initial construction, cleaning/sweeping, resealing, restriping, resurfacing, filling in cracks and potholes, etc.) as well as the annual $ per square foot rate of value of a new purpose that your organization would be better at than providing and managing car parking to determine the upside.
Try the calculator out and play with some of the input values! You might be surprised by how much car parking is costing your organization in opportunity and growth potential.
How the impact of the default values looks on a 28-stall car parking lot:
Limitations: This calculator does not account for parking lot entrances/exits and alleys, any water treatment areas, nor any grass/tree space within a parking lot surrounded by curbs. It does not account for similar space when used for or along bike parking. This calculator is intended to give you an estimate of how much space bike parking can help save you and assumes that it is reasonable for at least 10 people to bike to your organization, meaning having bike-friendly paths or routes nearby, bike programming, and/or other means to make it safe and convenient. This calculator also assumes 90 degree perpendicular parking or parallel car parking; not angled or diagonal stalls. It also assumes that the life cycle cost for each bike parking space is significantly less than each car parking space. For more accurate estimates in cases that involve diagonal car parking, combinations of different car parking stall layouts, and different kinds of bike parking, feel free to use this as inspiration to create your own more accurate estimator. The sources for the ranges are listed at the bottom of the page.
Sources - all were last retrieved 2022/01/22 - 2022/01/30:
Hess, Daniel and Rehler, Jeffrey. "America has eight parking spaces for every car. Here’s how cities are rethinking that land." Fast Company, 2021/06/15, https://www.fastcompany.com/90645900/america-has-eight-parking-spaces-for-every-car-heres-how-cities-are-rethinking-that-land#:~:text=With%20rapid%20post%2DWorld%20War,include%20off%2Dstreet%20parking%20lots.
Phillips, Shane. "Mapped: All 200 Square Miles of Parking in LA County, As One Giant Parking Lot." Better Institutions, 2016/01/04, http://www.betterinstitutions.com/blog/2016/1/2/map-a-parking-lot-with-all-of-la-countys-186-million-parking-spaces
Bergman, Ben. "Looking for Bargains on Office Space? Prepare for Sticker Shock. Rents Are Higher Than Before COVID." dot.LA, 2021/02/26, https://dot.la/commercial-real-estate-los-angeles-2650804993.html
"Monthly Parking Los Angeles Guide." MonthlyParking.org, last updated 2019/05/13, https://monthlyparking.org/los-angeles-monthly-parking/
"More California Cities Eliminate Parking Minimums to Promote Low Carbon Transportation and Affordable Housing." Remy Moose Manley LLP, https://www.rmmenvirolaw.com/more-california-cities-eliminate-parking-minimums-to-promote-low-carbon-transportation-and-affordable-housing/
Herriges, Daniel. "Announcing a New and Improved Map of Cities That Have Removed Parking Minimums." Strong Towns, 2021/11/22, https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2021/11/22/announcing-a-new-and-improved-map-of-cities-that-have-removed-parking-minimums
"Ordinance No. 185480." Los Angeles City Planning, 2018/03/29, https://planning.lacity.org/ordinances/docs/BicyclePkg/Adopted/Ordinance.pdf
"2006 New York City Bicycle Survey Report." City of New York, May, 2007, https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/plans/transportation/bike_survey.pdf
"The Power of Bicycle Parking." Transportation Alternatives, https://www.transalt.org/the-power-of-bicycle-parking
Car and Bike Parking Dimensions https://www.acgov.org/cda/planning/landuseprojects/documents/Draft_Design_Guidelines_Standards_Ch6-01-29-10.pdf
Car Parking Dimensions - https://qcode.us/codes/temecula/view.php?topic=17-17_24-17_24_050
Car Parking Dimensions - https://www.qcode.us/codes/upland/view.php?topic=17-3-17_11-17_11_100
City of San Francisco Bike Parking Dimensions https://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/reports-and-documents/2018/06/1_sfmta_bicycle_parking_guidelines-updated-05-15-2018.pdf