Best planning and implementation toolbox


 Purpose of Tool:

A parking sign stipulates parking requirements that respond to peak demand periods.
[ Source ]
While most communities appropriately establish parking requirements for individual land uses (such as two parking spaces for a single-family home), there are many situations where it is appropriate for two or more uses to share the same parking spaces. Shared parking strategies can be used to provide adequate parking for visitors to mixed-use areas, such as downtowns, in a comparatively limited number of parking facilities because business can be conducted by parking once and walking to multiple destinations. Shared parking strategies can allow drivers to access parking spaces that serve more than one destination point, which allows parking spaces to be used more efficiently. A typical example of this would be an office building sharing a parking facility with a movie theatre: because their peak usage times are complementary (office workers during the day and moviegoers at night and on the weekend), adequate parking for both sets of users can be accommodated within one parking facility. Shared parking at large institutions during off-peak hours is also a common practice. This strategy may require modifications to a municipality’s zoning ordinance, as many development codes require dedicated parking spaces for individual land uses, (ie. separate parking facilities for the office and the movie theatre. Shared parking can have a wide-ranging definition, from the most literal (metered on-street parking) to more formal use sharing agreements negotiated between private interests. The successful implementation of shared parking strategies can eventually curb the demand for more parking facilities to be built, as existing facilities are used more efficiently.

Benefits of Using Tool:
Shared parking programs are designed to encourage the efficient sharing of parking spaces, which can enable a reduction in overall parking requirements. By utilizing shared parking programs in lieu of individual lots or spaces dedicated to a single use, the following benefits for a community or region at large can be observed:
  • Reduced traffic congestion and reduced pollutants such as smog, CO2 and other green house gas (GHG) emissions,
  • More intensive and varied land use in areas that previously had to be devoted to parking; this can allow for dense, walkable, mixed-use districts that are pedestrian friendly,
  • Flexible and cost-effective alternative parking options, particularly in areas that experience high levels of parking demand over varied hours and times of day, and
  • Constrained parking options, or higher parking costs, encouraging the use of alternate transit modes for non-essential car trips, such as biking or walking, which is beneficial for both personal and environmental health.

    Steps Involved to Use Tool:
    Shared parking strategies can be administered in a number of ways. Methods for use can include the following:
  • Parking can be shared among a group of employees or residents, rather than assigning individual spots to individual users. Assuming that demand will be spread over several hours, users can be offered a pricing structure that supports electing a shared parking program. For example, an employee could be offered an assigned space for $100/month or a shared space for $60/month, allowing the individual to capture the savings that result from participating in a shared parking program.
  • Parking can be shared among different buildings and facilities that are poised to take advantage of different peak periods of demand. In this scenario, the total amount of parking can usually be reduced by up to 40 percent from traditional off-street parking requirements1. This requires that multiple destinations are within walking distance of the same parking facility so that patrons can also park once and visit multiple locations2.
  • A municipal policy that encourages and allows shared parking might have the following elements: a provision for the maximum amount of off-street parking to be provided, providing and administering public off-street parking facilities such as a structured garage, encouraging more clustered development to make multiple destinations easily accessible from a central parking location, and allowing or requiring ‘in-lieu’ parking fees from developers instead of dedicated private off-street parking to help fund public shared parking facilities.

    Special Requirements to Use Tool:
    Shared parking can be limited by the proximity of destinations that share a parking facility. A number of variables, such as type of land use and pedestrian environment, will contribute to what an acceptable walking distance between the parking facility and final destination will be. Additionally, a variety of incentives and targeted marketing efforts can increase the use of shared parking. Offering shared parking participants varied pricing choices for parking spaces or, on the supply side, allowing developers or building owners to pay in-lieu parking fees that fund public parking facilities, will increase the use of shared parking programs.

    Specials Resources Needed to Use Tool:
    Some communities have updated their zoning ordinances and associated parking requirements to encourage shared parking. An ordinance update typically includes enabling shared parking, by allowing for off-street parking facilities to be located off-site. An ordinance of this type will usually specify a maximum distance from the structure or use within which the off-site parking facility must be located. These location requirements are often based on acceptable walking distances for a typical user, such as 600 feet3. Ordinances may also allow for a reduction in required spaces if a development site is accessible by public transit or close to a public parking lot.

    Communities / Agencies that Have Used Tool:
    The sharing parking program in San Diego, California has enjoyed some success since the parking ordinance update was re-written in 2000 to allow for shared parking provisions. The City provides sample shared parking agreements for business owners to use as a template and encourages development projects in congested areas, such as restaurants, to frequently share parking lots to meet current parking standards. Developed by the Planning and Development Review and the City Attorney, the shared parking agreements are recorded with the County of San Diego and stay in effect unless the City agrees to cancel or modify them.

    City of San Diego Development Services Department
    1222 First Avenue, MS 301
    San Diego, CA 92101
    Phone: (619) 446-5325 

    Metrics to Use to Monitor Tool Effectiveness:
    Shared parking programs have a range of benefits, from reducing the amount of paved surfaces to encouraging collaboration between businesses. Research suggests that shared parking programs can actually encourage vibrant street-level activity by reducing the amount of space dedicated to parking, allowing for greater flexibility in facility location and site design. Parking lots do not dominate the street and can instead make way for more welcoming, pedestrian-friendly streetscapes. Additionally, shared parking programs can make more efficient use of existing parking lots: with a shared parking strategy in place, medium-sized towns can ‘save’ an average of more than two acres of land by providing on-street and shared public parking.4

    List of Resources to Obtain Additional Info:
    See the following sources for more information:
  • Shared Parking Model Ordinance, City of Portland, Online:
  • Robin Zimbler, Governor’s Office of Smart Growth, (Maryland), Driving Urban Environments, Smart Growth Best Parking Practices, 2005. PDF:


    1 Institute of Transportation Engineers, Parking Generation 3rd Edition, Urban Land Institute, 2005.
    2 Boston Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Sustainable Transportation Toolkit, Online:
    3 Smart Growth Parking Best Practices, page 6. Online:
    4 Garrick and Marshall, What Street Parking Can Do for Downtowns, The Hartford Courant, page C4, May 18, 2008.