Parking Myths Debunked
MYTH: There’s not enough parking. More parking will solve this problem.
REALITY: In higher density neighborhoods, there are more people per square mile than in lower density
neighborhoods. If many residents have cars, there will be a high demand for a limited quantity of parking
spaces. Increasing the supply of a good that is in high demand does not eliminate the demand. Parking
garages are expensive (they average $30,000 per space, not including land costs). If street parking is
free and a garage space is $30,000, most people will seek out the free parking. When parking is priced to
manage demand, many households reduce the number of vehicles, taking more taxis and transit trips, and
shift to using shared vehicles like I-Go and ZipCar. With more people living close together, transit becomes
the most efficient way to move throughout the area.
MYTH: If only there were more parking, businesses would get more customers.
REALITY: Parking is not what brings people to a neighborhood. A great, vibrant neighborhood with a variety
of stores and amenities in close proximity is the attraction. The City of Chicago has a variety of transit
options, which can bring many more people to an area than private automobiles. There is also a huge supply
of on-street parking, excellent coverage with car-sharing vehicles, taxicabs, and great bicycle networks.
Areas with excessive parking diminish the attraction of the surrounding environment and encourage driving
over healthier, more efficient and sustainable travel modes.
Twenty-four people in a block: Traveling by car (bottom left), walking and bicycling (top right), and in a bus (bottom right).
MYTH: New developments should include more parking because we don’t have enough parking right now
to accommodate the additional people they’ll bring into the community.
REALITY: More parking means more traffic. If roads are already at capacity and parking is in high demand,
adding more parking means that more cars will come to the area. If developers focus on building near
transit and including shared cars, bike lockers, and Divvy bike share stations in and around their buildings,
they could attract more people with fewer cars. For developments that include parking, it should be leased
separate from housing so that individuals can choose whether or not they want to pay extra for a parking
space. If on-street spaces are full most of the time, pricing is the simplest way to manage demand. Convert
streets to residential permits; if it is already permitted, the price needs to be higher and there should be an
exponentially increasing fee for the same address requesting multiple permits.
MYTH: Charging for parking hurts low-income residents.
REALITY: Lower-income residents have lower levels of car-ownership and are more likely to use transit.
Since the cost of parking is built into the cost of everything we buy, free parking is subsidized by those who
don’t drive or don’t drive as much as other people.
MYTH: Raising the meter prices or extending the hours will kill businesses.
REALITY: Not being able to find a parking space is more of a deterrent to potential customers than paying
for a space near their destination. When pricing is set to match demand levels, like in parts of San Francisco
(visit SFpark.org for more information), drivers can spend more time shopping and less time looking for
parking. Drivers who don’t want to pay as much will park further from high-demand areas and walk, and
drivers who don’t want to walk pay more for the convenience.
SO WHAT CAN A NEIGHBORHOOD DO?
• Reward and encourage walking, biking, car-share use and transit use.
• Work with I-Go and ZipCar to get more shared vehicles in your Ward and provide membership discounts
to Ward residents.
• Work with owners of private parking lots to share or lease spaces (churches usually have different peak
demands than businesses, schools can partner with restaurants and bars to share parking).
• Improve the signage directing drivers to underutilized parking; encourage the use of apps like Spot Hero
to help people find parking before they even get in their car.
• Ask developers of new housing to provide each tenant with a one-year membership in a car-sharing
organization like I-Go or ZipCar, as well as an on-site vehicle (allow curbside space to be used for this).
• Ask developers of new housing to provide each tenant with a one-year CTA pass.
• Allow developers to determine the appropriate amount of parking to provide rather than imposing
specific requirements per unit and ask that parking be leased separate from the units at full cost so that
new residents can consider the cost of bringing a car.
• Do not allow residential driveways on public streets as this creates pedestrian conflict points and
removes shared, curbside parking. Garages should face alleys.
• Provide more bike lanes and bike racks; encourage community events focused on biking and walking.
• Restrict the amount of free parking and use (6PM-6AM) residential permits along neighborhood streets.
• Increase the cost of residential permits when supply is limited. Use an exponentially escalating fee for the
price of permits at one address.
• When the price that drivers are willing to pay to park on-street can cover the cost of creating additional
supply, then creating a shared, centralized parking garage is a wise decision.
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) is assisting the Wicker Park Bucktown SSA with a plan for innovative
parking management strategies through its Local Technical Assistance program. For more information, visit: