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Parking lot

Diagram of example parking lot layout with angle parking as seen from above
A parking lot in Manhattan, New York City, in 2010, with its capacity increased through multiple level stacked parking using mechanical lifts
A subterranean parking lot of a Brazilian shopping mall taken in 2016
A sign at the entrance to an underground parking garage in March 2007, warning drivers of the maximum height clearance, in this case, roughly 2 meters (6.5 feet)
Car park with drop arm in Dazaifu, Fukuoka
Parking lot outside of a shopping mall in Collégien, France, demonstrating the design of prioritizing spaces for cars over spaces for people
Motorcycle parking lot in Surakarta, Indonesia

A parking lot (American English) or car park (British English), also known as a car lot, is a cleared area intended for parking vehicles. The term usually refers to an area dedicated only for parking, with a durable or semi-durable surface. In most jurisdictions where cars are the dominant mode of transportation, parking lots are a major feature of cities and suburban areas. Shopping malls, sports stadiums, and other similar venues often have immense parking lots. (See also: multistorey car park)

Parking lots tend to be sources of water pollution because of their extensive impervious surfaces, and because most have limited or no facilities to control runoff. Many areas today also require minimum landscaping in parking lots to provide shade and help mitigate the extent to which their paved surfaces contribute to heat islands. Many municipalities require minimum numbers of parking spaces for buildings such as stores (by floor area) and apartment complexes (by number of bedrooms). In the United States, each state's Department of Transportation sets the proper ratio for disabled spaces for private business and public parking lots. Modern parking lots use various technologies to enable motorists to pay parking fees, help them find unoccupied spaces and retrieve their vehicles, and improve their parking experiences.

Car occupying two parking spaces, often frowned upon in many countries

Urban planning

The effect of large-scale in-city parking has long been contentious. The replacement of historic structures by garages and lots has led to historical preservation movements in many cities. The massive acreage devoted to parking is widely seen as disruptive to walkable urban fabric, maximizing convenience to each individual building but hampering foot traffic between them. Large paved areas have been called "parking craters", "parking deserts", and similar terms, emphasizing their "depopulated" nature and the barriers they can create to walking movement.

Parking minimums and maximums

Urban planning policies such as parking minimums and maximums can influence the size of private parking lots.


Due to a recent trend[further explanation needed] towards more livable and walkable communities, parking minimums (policies requiring each building to have a minimum number of parking spaces) have been criticized by both livable streets advocates[1] and developers alike. For a time, the British government recommended that local councils should establish maximum parking standards to discourage car use.[2] American cities such as Washington, DC, are now considering removing parking minimums as a way to add more housing for residents while encouraging the use of public transit.[3] Parking lots designed specifically for bicycle parking are also becoming more prevalent in response to increased environmental and health consciousness. These may include bicycle parking racks and locks, as well as more modern technologies for security and convenience.[4] For instance, a growing number of bicycle parking lots in Tokyo include automated parking systems.[5][6]

Efforts to reduce the amount of space dedicated to parking lots for diminishing the dependence on cars, has been taken in Beijing, Mexico City, Delhi and different cities in California.[7] Portland, Minneapolis, Austin abolished the requirement for parking minimum. As of 2 November 2023, Austin (Texas) is the biggest city in the US that has done so - for encouraging, walking, biking, public transit, lowering the cost of housing and increase the amount of housing units that can be built in the city territory.[8]

Legal issues

Universal sign for disabled parking

Sweden and Denmark

Rural parking lot, Gotland, Sweden

In Sweden and Denmark, there are legally two types of car parking, either on streets and roads, or on private land. A parking violation on streets is a traffic crime, resulting in fines. A parking violation on private land (also if owned by the city) is a contract violation and gives additional parking fee (Swedish: kontrollavgift = check fee). The difference is small for the car owner and the owner is always responsible.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has two types of car parking: either on public or on private land. The police will investigate any reported accident on public land but have no legal obligation and will not do so on private land. Public road is defined by the Road Traffic Act 1972 and (Amendment) Regulations 1988 S.I. 1988/1036[9] as: "Road", in relation to England and Wales, means any highway and any other road to which the public has access, and includes bridges over which a road passes. There is also a House of Lords judgment on this matter.[10]

Civil enforcement officers enforce parking restrictions on public, council-run car parks. These include failure to purchase a ticket as payment (if available)/not parking in a marked bay/other offences.

United States

In the United States, each state's Department of Transportation sets the proper ratio for disabled spaces for private business and public parking lots. Certain circumstances may demand more designated spaces. These reserved spaces are mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines.[11]


Parking, 5 cents a day, Hollywood, United States, 1949
Barrier can be installed so that parking is not possible without payment.

Various forms of technology are used to charge motorists for the use of a parking lot.

Boom gates are used in many parking lots. A customer arrives to the entry ticket machine by vehicle, presses the ticket request push button, takes a ticket - which raises the barrier - and enters the parking lot. To exit the lot, the customer presents the ticket to a cashier in a booth at the exit and tenders payment, after which the cashier opens the boom gate.

In 1954, the first automated parking lots were built where, for a monthly fee, a driver with a magnetic key card could enter and exit the parking lot by raising and lowering the boom.[12]

A more modern system uses automatic pay stations, where the driver presents the ticket and pays the fee required before returning to their car, then drives to the exit terminal and presents the ticket. If the ticket has not been paid for, the boom barrier will not raise, which will force the customer to either press the intercom and speak to a staff member, or reverse out to pay at the pay station or cashier booth.

At some major airports' parking lots in the United States, a driver can choose to swipe a credit card at the entry ticket dispenser instead of taking a ticket. When the driver swipes the same credit card at the exit terminal upon leaving the lot, the applicable parking fee is automatically calculated and charged to the credit card used.

In some parking lots, drivers present their tickets to and pay the cashiers at a separate cashier's office or counter (which are often located elsewhere from the entrances and exits of carparks). Such cashier's offices are called shroff offices or simply shroff in some parking lots in Hong Kong and other parts of East Asia influenced by the Hong Kong usage. If a ticket has not been paid, the barrier will not raise. In recent years, cashiers and shroff officers have often been replaced with automated machines.[citation needed] Another variant of payment has motorists paying an attendant on entry to the lot, with the way out guarded by a one-way spike strip that will only allow cars to exit.[citation needed]

Parking meters can also be used, with motorists paying in advance for the time required for the bay they are parked in. Pango (a play on "pay and go"[13]), a company founded in Israel in 2007, created a mobile app that allows users to both find and pay for available metered parking; the app can also be used to pay for garage parking.[13] Users' accounts are linked to a payment method, and the system remembers where a vehicle is parked and allows users to share a parking session with Facebook friends. Users may also, for a nominal monthly fee per registered car, subscribe to reminders that text alerts shortly before metered time expires,[14] and in some municipalities, users may buy additional metered time via cellphone. Philadelphia, encourages parking space turnover by charging escalating parking fees when metered time is added.[15][16] Another app, Streetline, whose primary purpose is to help motorists find open parking spots using their smartphones, includes a timer, so users can get back to a parking meter before it expires, and a filter that lets users choose between on-street and off-street parking spaces; it also connects to the phone's camera so a user can take a photograph of their car.[17]

Other lots operate on a pay and display system, where a ticket is purchased from a ticket machine and then placed on the dashboard of the car. Parking enforcement officers patrol the lot to ensure compliance with the requirement.[citation needed]

Similar to this is the system where the parking is paid by the mobile phone by sending an SMS message which contains the license plate number. In this case, the virtual cashier books the car and the time when the message is sent, and later a new SMS message must be sent whenever the time is due. The actual payment is then made via the mobile phone bill.[citation needed]

Since 1978 in the United Kingdom, it has been possible to pre-book parking with specialist companies, such as BCP. This is prevalent at all airports, major ports and cities.


Sensors above each lot in this indoor parking lot determine if a car has already taken the spot.

Modern parking lots use a variety of technologies to help motorists find unoccupied parking spaces using parking guidance and information system, retrieve their vehicles, and improve their experience. This includes adaptive lighting, sensors, indoor positioning system (IPS) and mobile payment options. The Santa Monica Place shopping mall in California has cameras on each stall that can help count the lot occupancy and find lost cars.[18]

In outdoor parking lots, GPS can be used to remember the location of a vehicle (some apps saves location automatically when turning off the car when a smartphone breaks communication with a vehicle's Bluetooth connection).[citation needed] In indoor parking lots, one option is to record one's Wi-Fi signature (signal strengths observed for several detectable access points) to remember the location of a vehicle.[19] Another alternative is to use smartphone applications that does inertial dead reckoning, detection of turns made by the car while driving indoor, correlations of travel time between turns, and machine learning algorithms, to infer the rough location of the parked car based on a map or floorplan.[20][21]

Online booking technology service providers have been created to help drivers find long-term parking in an automated manner, while also providing significant savings for those who book parking spaces ahead of time. They use real-time inventory management checking technology to display parking lots with availability, sorted by price and distance from the airport.

There are mobile apps providing services for the reservation of long-term parking lot spaces similar to online or aggregate parking facility booking services. Some long-term parking mobile apps also have turn-by-turn maps to locate the parking lot, notably US and UK based ParkJockey.

Solar canopy parking lots

Solar canopy parking lot in New Haven at Hotel Marcel. There are EV level 2 chargers underneath the canopy and a 12-stall Tesla Supercharger behind.

Solar canopy parking lots are solar arrays installed on canopies in parking lots. They are up to twice as expensive to install as normal open field solar arrays because the added material in the structure to elevate them for cars to park underneath. They can also be useful at protecting cars from extreme weather and the Sun's heat.[22]

Environmental considerations

Parking lot landscaped with trees, 2009
A nearly empty parking lot of estate in Kotka, Finland.

Water pollution

Parking lots tend to be sources of water pollution because of their extensive impervious surfaces. Virtually all of the rain (minus evaporation) that falls becomes urban runoff. To avoid flooding and unsafe driving conditions, the lots are built to channel and collect runoff.[23] Parking lots, along with roads, are often the principal source of water pollution in urban areas.[24]

Motor vehicles are a constant source of pollutants, the most significant being gasoline, motor oil, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and heavy metals. are found in combustion byproducts of gasoline, as well as in asphalt and coal tar-based sealants used to maintain parking lots.) Many parking lots are also significant sources of trash which ends up in waterways.[25]

Treatment of pollution: Traditionally, the runoff has been shunted directly into storm sewers, streams, dry wells or even sanitary sewers. However, most larger municipalities now require construction of stormwater management facilities for new lots. Typical facilities include retention basins, infiltration basins and percolation trenches.[26] Some newer designs include bioretention systems, which use plants more extensively to absorb and filter pollutants. However, most existing lots have limited or no facilities to control runoff.

Alternative paving materials: An alternative solution today is to use permeable paving surfaces, such as brick, pervious concrete, stone, special paving blocks, or tire-tread woven mats. These materials allow rain to soak into the ground through the spaces inherent in the parking lot surface. The ground then may become contaminated in the surface of the parking lot park, but this tends to stay in a small area of ground, which effectively filters water before it seeps away. This can however create problems if contaminants seep into groundwater, especially where there is groundwater abstraction 'downstream' for potable water supply.

A San Jose, California parking lot in 2006, with landscaping and a diagonal parking pattern designed for one-way traffic.


Many areas today also require minimum landscaping in parking lots. This usually principally means the planting of trees to provide shade. Customers have long preferred shaded parking spaces in the summer, but parking lot providers have long been antagonistic to planting trees because of the extra cost of cleaning the parking lots.[citation needed]

Paved surfaces contribute to heat islands in two ways. The first is through excessive accumulation of heat. Dark materials and the enclosed canyons created by city buildings trap more of the sun's energy. The reflection rate of paving compared to natural surfaces is important as higher reflectance means cooler temperatures. Black pavements, the hottest, have solar reflectances of 5 to 10 percent. Lighter pavements have solar reflectance rates of 25 percent or higher. Reflectance values for soils and various types of vegetation range from 5 to 45 percent. The second cause of heat islands is the low moisture content of paving and building materials. Such materials are watertight, so no moisture is available to dissipate the sun's heat through evaporation.[27]

Tree planting has been shown to significantly reduce temperatures in open, paved areas. In one study in Alabama, daytime summer temperatures of 120 °F (49 °C) were recorded in the centre of a bare parking lot, whereas where a small island of trees was present, temperatures only reached 89 °F (32 °C). It also found that a further 1 °F temperature reduction could be obtained for every additional canopy tree planted.[28]

More recently, parking lots have been seen as prime real estate for installing large solar panel installations, with the additional benefit of shade for vehicles parked underneath.

Land usage

A parking lot needs fairly large space, around 25 square meters or 270 square feet per parking spot. This means that lots usually need more land area than for corresponding buildings for offices or shops if most employees and visitors arrive by car. This means covering large areas with asphalt.[29]


Some lots have charging stations for battery vehicles. Some regions with especially cold winters provide electricity at most parking spots for engine block heaters, as antifreeze may be inadequate to prevent freezing.

Impact on climate

Parking lots are responsible for many greenhouse gas emissions because they increase driving and contributing to the urban heat island due to the materials they are built from.[7]

See also


  1. ^ Fried, Ben (August 20, 2008). "How to Fix Off-Street Parking Policy, Before It's Too Late". StreetsBlog NYC. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  2. ^ Archived 2009-03-06 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Out, Damned Spot! How D.C.'s Onerous Parking Requirements Slow Development". March 21, 2013. Archived from the original on December 13, 2013.
  4. ^ "Parking Management Software". Hamari Society. December 11, 2018. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
  5. ^ Springer, Kate; Han, Sol (October 19, 2016). "Japan's crazy underground bike vaults". CNN Style. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  6. ^ "Invisible Bicycles: Tokyo's High-Tech Underground Bike Parking". Web Urbanist. March 26, 2015. Archived from the original on March 28, 2015. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  7. ^ a b "To Tackle Climate Change, Cities Need to Rethink Parking". Institute for transportation & development policy. Retrieved November 7, 2023.
  8. ^ FECHTER, JOSHUA (November 2, 2023). "To fight climate change and housing shortage, Austin becomes largest U.S. city to drop parking-spot requirements". Texas tribune. Retrieved November 7, 2023.
  9. ^ "Road Traffic Act 1988". Archived from the original on September 9, 2006.
  10. ^ Department, Law Lords. "House of Lords - Clark (A.P.) and Others v. Kato, Smith and General Accident Fire & Life Assurance Corporation PLCCutter v. Eagle Star Insurance Company". Archived from the original on February 24, 2017.
  11. ^ ADA Accessibility Guidelines Parking and Passenger Loading Zones Archived 2011-05-14 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Key Card Inserted In Slot Opens Gate At Automated Parking Lot". Popular Science. Hearst Magazines. August 1954. p. 94. (mid page)
  13. ^ a b Furman, Phyllis (August 6, 2013). "Parking app Pango making tracks in NYC, adding 20 more garages over next few weeks (App that speeds up pick-ups and payments spreading to 110 Manhattan garages by year-end)". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  14. ^ Staff Writer (November 4, 2014). "Mt. Vernon Launches Pango Mobile Payments for Parking on November 5". Mount Vernon Inquirer.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ Philadelphia Parking Authority Staff (May 21, 2015). "Pango Mobile Parking App Coming to Philadelphia". The PPA Blog.
  16. ^ "PANGO Mobile Parking". Parking Network. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015.
  17. ^ Motavalli, Jim (October 11, 2012). "New York Times contributor blogs about interesting ways of getting around. Streetline app aims to end the hunt for a parking space". Mother Nature Network. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015.
  18. ^ Martha Groves (January 23, 2011). "Servant or snoop in the parking garage?". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 31, 2014. Retrieved August 29, 2014.
  19. ^ Joshua Correa, Ed Katz, Patricia Collins, Martin Griss (November 2008). "Room-Level Wi-Fi Location Tracking" (PDF). Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley MRC-TR-2008-02. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 3, 2016.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  20. ^ Cherian, Jim; Luo, Jun; Ho, Shen-Shyang (September 18, 2018). "ParkLoc: Light-weight Graph-based Vehicular Localization in Parking Garages". Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies. 2 (3): 1–23. doi:10.1145/3264909. S2CID 214703023.
  21. ^ Gao, R.; Zhao, M.; Ye, T.; Ye, F.; Wang, Y.; Luo, G. (July 2017). "Smartphone-Based Real Time Vehicle Tracking in Indoor Parking Structures". IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing. 16 (7): 2023–2036. doi:10.1109/TMC.2017.2684167.
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 3, 2024. Retrieved January 3, 2024.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ Schueler, Thomas R. "The Importance of Imperviousness". Archived 2009-02-27 at the Wayback Machine Reprinted in The Practice of Watershed Protection. Archived 2008-12-23 at the Wayback Machine 2000. Center for Watershed Protection. Ellicott City, MD.
  24. ^ United States. National Research Council. Washington, DC. "Urban Stormwater Management in the United States". Archived 2013-08-31 at the Wayback Machine October 15, 2008. p.5
  25. ^ G. Allen Burton Jr.; Robert Pitt (2001). Stormwater Effects Handbook: A Toolbox for Watershed Managers, Scientists, and Engineers. New York: CRC/Lewis Publishers. ISBN 0-87371-924-7. Archived from the original on May 19, 2009. Chapter 2.
  26. ^ California Stormwater Quality Association. Menlo Park, CA. "Stormwater Best Management Practice (BMP) Handbooks". Archived January 18, 2008, at the Wayback Machine 2003.
  27. ^ Wolf, Kathleen (2004). Trees, Parking and Green Law: Strategies for Sustainability (PDF). Georgia: USDA Forest Service, Southern Region Georgia Forestry Commission. p. 8. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 28, 2015.
  28. ^ "Green Parking Lot Resource Guide" (PDF). National Service Center for Environmental Publications. EPA. February 2008. p. 40. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 5, 2017. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  29. ^ Milman, Oliver (December 26, 2022). "Shifting gears: why US cities are falling out of love with the parking lot". The Guardian. Retrieved December 26, 2022.
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Parking lot
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