Apr 10, 2023 - News

Downtown Houston is 26% parking

Downtown Houston parking lots
Data: Parking Reform Network; Map: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

Everyone's seen that one picture of downtown Houston in the 1970s, with parking lots as far as the eye can see.

  • But how does the downtown parking situation fare today?

Driving the news: According to the Parking Reform Network, 26% of downtown Houston's surface area is dedicated to parking lots or garages — more than most major metros in the U.S.

  • That means the Bayou City has more parking space downtown than most major metros in the U.S.

Why it matters: More parking lots mean less walkability, the network argues.

  • "With all this parking, little land [is] left for anything else, making housing more expensive, less dense and farther apart," the network said on its website. "It's clear that if we want to have walkable cities, we need cities that are less parkable."

Zoom out: Arlington, near Dallas, had the worst score, while San Francisco had the best score.

Yes, but: Some of Houston's parking lots are vanishing. From 2010-2020, 21 lots were razed, with buildings put in their place, according to the Downtown District.

  • Those include the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Partnership Tower, Marriott Marquis, Hampton Inn and Suites, and Aris Market Square.
  • Probably most famously, the list also includes Discovery Green.

Between the lines: Houston's minimum parking rules, which require developers to build a certain number of parking spaces based on the size or occupancy of the building, aren't required in downtown, Midtown and parts of the East End.

  • This gives builders more flexibility to create pedestrian-friendly spaces.

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