Study: Autonomous Cars Won’t Solve the Parking Problem

In hyper-dense cities where incentives to reduce car use and eliminate parking are already high, mass adoption of AVs won’t significantly reduce parking demand.

2 minute read

March 26, 2023, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Although supporters of autonomous vehicle technology tout the potential for AVs to revolutionize curb management and eliminate the need for parking lots and garages, a new study, somewhat ironically funded by AV operator Venmo, reveals that this will likely not be the case in cities with already limited parking. Kea Wilson describes the results in Streetsblog.

The study took a different approach than most theoretical models. “Rather than assuming that AVs would be a parking-reduction panacea, though, the researchers modeled a range of scenarios wherein the demand for car storage dropped by as little as 20 or as much as 80 percent — and asked tough questions about whether the specific parcels that drop in demand would free up would actually be redeveloped into an apartment building, based on existing market incentives, lot size, and other factors.” According to Nico Larco, director of the Urbanism Next Center at the University of Oregon, the study indicates that “parking is not what is limiting development” in already dense and pricy neighborhoods of San Francisco.

Larco points out that most of the need for parking in a city like San Francisco comes from outside the city itself: “it’s people coming from the periphery into the center who are the ones parking their cars. If you don’t have massive geographic penetration, the amount of reduction you’re going to see is going to be a lot smaller…and unless you can get your business model to work in the downtown core and in the suburbs, you’re not going to have that scale of deployment you need to put a real dent in parking.” The mass adoption of AVs could have a more significant impact on parking demand in expensive but car-oriented cities like Los Angeles.

Larco questions the value of pouring billions of dollars and resources into AVs in lieu of investing in less glamorous, tried-and-true transportation options: “Would a bike lane, or some other, more mundane mobility [improvement], maybe have made more sense?”

Tuesday, March 21, 2023 in Streetsblog USA

Black and white Rideshare Pick-Up Zone sign

The Slow Death of Ride Sharing

From the beginning, TNCs like Lyft and Uber touted shared rides as their key product. Now, Lyft is ending the practice.

June 1, 2023 - Human Transit

Urban sidewalk shaded by large mature trees

Cool Walkability Planning

Shadeways (covered sidewalks) and pedways (enclosed, climate controlled walkways) can provide comfortable walkability in hot climates. The Cool Walkshed Index can help plan these facilities.

June 1, 2023 - Todd Litman

Traffic on the 405 interstate freeway through the Sepulveda Pass at Getty Center Drive in Los Angeles, California

Congestion Pricing Could Be Coming to L.A.

The infamously car-centric city is weighing a proposed congestion pricing pilot program to reduce traffic and encourage public transit use.

May 30, 2023 - Los Angeles Times

View from lakeside with green grass and pink blooming flowers

Who Benefits Most from Land Conservation Efforts?

A new study estimates that recent land conservation generated $9.8 billion in wealth nationally through the housing market and that wealthier and White households benefited disproportionately.

48 minutes ago - PNAS

Close-up of black parking meter with blurred street in background

Richmond Repeals Parking Minimums, Encourages Off-Street Parking and Transit

The Virginia city is replete with underused off-street parking lots, which city councilors hope to make available for parking at more times while encouraging transit use.

1 hour ago - Next City

Multi-Family Housing

Lack of Multi-Family Zones Contributes to Nashville’s High Housing Costs, Study Says

Nashville and surrounding communities allow for a relatively small amount of multi-family housing, according to a new zoning atlas of Middle Tennessee. A regionally focused nonprofit is using the atlas to push for zoning reforms.

2 hours ago - Axios Nashville

Project Manager III

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

UDO Transportation Planner

City of Charlotte - Charlotte Area Transit

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.