photo of a mostly empty parking lot

Photo by John Matychuk

The Bay Area Parking Census

How much parking the region has, why it’s too much and what to do about it

SPUR Report

For decades, parking in the Bay Area has been both ubiquitous and uncounted. Although no one has measured how much parking the region has — or how much it really needs — policy makers continue to require almost every new development to provide parking spaces, accumulating an ever-larger supply.

Now SPUR and the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) have produced the San Francisco Bay Area Parking Census, the most detailed assessment of parking infrastructure ever produced for the region.

Here’s what we discovered:

  • The nine-county Bay Area has 15 million parking spaces, enough to wrap around the planet 2.3 times.
  • 20% of incorporated land in the region is devoted to driving and storing cars.
  • There are approximately 2.4 spaces for every car and approximately 1.9 parking spaces for every person in the Bay Area.

In short, there is far more parking than we need. This excess parking has become an accepted part of the urban landscape and makes residents more likely to drive, increasing carbon emissions and worsening climate impacts, air pollution and respiratory disease, rates of injury and death from collisions, and traffic congestion. Our parking glut also contributes to the Bay Area’s housing crisis in two ways. First, requiring parking for every apartment and condo increases their cost. And second, unneeded parking spaces are taking up valuable space that could be used for more housing. The census helps fill data gaps about parking to inform policy reforms and will help policymakers make better decisions for the future of Bay Area cities.