Apr 19, 2023 - News

Downtown Austin is 17% parking

Austin's got a lot of asphalt designated for parking.

Driving the news: According to the Parking Reform Network, 17% of downtown Austin's surface area is dedicated to parking lots or garages.

Yes, but: It feels like parking lots in downtown Austin are steadily transforming into skyscrapers — we're thinking for example of the lot just south of Republic Square that's now a tower construction site.

  • Plus, roughly 25% (!) of downtowns in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio are dedicated to parking, per the nonprofit network.
  • Those other Texas cities are among the cities nationally with the most land dedicated to parking, underscoring Texas' car-dependent culture.

Zoom out: Nationally, on average, 20% of all land in city centers the organization analyzed was dedicated solely to parking.

Of note: The map above shows surface lots and above-ground structures. It doesn't account for street parking, underground parking or parking spaces that take up multiple floors of a building.

Between the (parking) lines: A coalition of Austin environmental, urbanist and neighborhood groups are pressing the city to ditch parking mandates.

  • The mandates require builders and homeowners to provide a certain amount of onsite parking, depending on the building’s location, size and type.
  • Critics say the mandates have forced developers to build more parking than really needed, driving up the cost of housing.
A parking lot full of cars in downtown Austin.
A parking lot in downtown Austin full of GM Cruise self-driving cars in March. Photo: Asher Price/Axios

Yes, but: Efforts to overhaul Austin's current land development code — which mandates a minimum amount of parking for every new development outside of the downtown area — have been stymied in the courts.

What they're saying: "This parking is often clustered around main streets, office districts, and historical cores, creating a barrier around the city’s most valuable and walkable areas that limits residential and commercial growth," per the Parking Reform Network. "Cities with high parking have ample land that could be devoted to building walkable neighborhoods, vibrant parks, or office districts."

The bottom line: At least we've got a better urban balance than Houston in the 1970s.


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