This is part three of the five part series documenting parking requirements for various uses across the United States. Much of what was said about the restaurant graph applies here as well. Office building requirements are somewhat less dramatic in both size and variation but not by much. In comparing the three graphs that I have done so far, it is starting to become obvious that there is great inconsistency not only between cities but within each individual city’s code. Compare for instance the restaurant requirement versus the office requirement for both Kansas City and Memphis. In examining the restaurant graph, one might assume that Memphis has by far the less onerous minimums. However, in the office graphic above, the roles are strikingly reversed. Other cities are more consistent. Seattle and Milwaukee are good examples.
One thing that has surprised me in this graph is the revelation that the majority of large cities exempt their downtowns from these regulations (although many still require parking for other uses such as housing).
Unsurprisingly, the most conspicuous exception, (Edit: 27 July 2013: Thanks to Michael Bates below who pointed out that Tulsa does in fact exempt its CBD from parking minimums) Tulsa, recently won streetsblog’s ignominious “Golden Crater” award. Obviously there can be very different definitions of what constitutes each city’s downtown and so the areas not subject to parking minimums in each city will vary. Clearly, in many of these cities, the relatively small footprint of these exempt areas has failed to achieve the critical mass necessary to create robust transit ridership and fully-functioning pedestrian oriented communities. People need to travel to places outside the central business district in the course of their daily lives. Simply exempting a small area where a large portion of the population works is not sufficient to allow reliable alternatives to the personal vehicle. If transportation choice is not permitted everywhere (or at least in a sufficiently large zone) it will not exist anywhere.
It would be interesting to know if higher parking requirements have an effect on the design of office buildings. Since open office designs fit more people than a similarly sized building with personal offices, one might expect to see more open offices in cities with high requirements in order to avoid having more parking spaces than people. I personally like open office environments, but I don’t think that parking should be driving the decision to build them.
I welcome any thoughts you might have to add, and as always, I have provided an editable vector version: office
Edit: 29 May 2013
Tom Radulovich at Livable City was kind enough to help me make this graph more accurate with respect to San Francisco. He writes: