Infographic: Living Space v. Parking Space

Your car’s bedroom is bigger than yours.
This post is 4 in the series: Parking? Lots!

Your bedroom is smaller than your car’s—that and other surprising facts stand out in a new infographic we’ve assembled with architect and designer Seth Goodman of Graphing Parking.

Living Space vs. Parking Space in Cascadia

Click here for the largest version of the infographic (zoom in for full resolution) or here for a landscape version.

Mandatory off-street parking quotas written into local land-use laws have pernicious effects. At multifamily buildings, localities require developers to construct off-street parking spaces for each apartment or condominium. Many cities also require a side order of visitor parking. The requirements vary with unit size and sometimes with city zone, and they are rife with exemptions, exceptions, and complexities. (I’ll discuss some of them in a future article.)

Still, the underlying parking minimums are typically one to two slots per dwelling. To build a two-bedroom apartment in Portland, Seattle, or Vancouver, BC, you must install one parking stall (unless various conditions apply). Same goes for Eugene, Oregon, and Spokane, Washington. The quota rises to around 1.5 slots per apartment in Surrey and Burnaby, BC; Boise, Idaho; and Tacoma, Washington. It’s near or at 2 spaces in Gresham, Oregon; Kent and Yakima, Washington; and Meridian and Nampa, Idaho.

Architect and designer Seth Goodman has been mapping parking requirements across the United States in arresting infographics. He enthusiastically agreed to work with Sightline on this Cascadian edition to distill some of the variation and complexities of parking requirements. It shows what’s required in the 27 most populous Cascadian cities—and indicates the footprints of parking space and living space in each—for an average-size two bedroom apartment that follows the basic parking rule in the city where it’s built.

The mismatch between these rules and actual parking demand will be the topic of my next article.

Big thanks to Mieko Van Kirk and Pam MacRae for researching parking requirements in Cascadian cities and to Seth Goodman for making parking requirements visually interesting.

We are a community-supported resource and we can’t do this work without you!



  1. Scott Ranville says:

    I agree with some of this article, but if I read it correctly, they are counting sidewalks to get to the parking spot. This seems wrong to me. Even if the residents could live without a car, the sidewalks would still be needed to get to bike parking or to walk to your destination.

    I do agree with more space for living aka for people. Some quick thoughts on how to achieve this while still providing for needed mobility options … some of this is from a suburb perspective in which car travel is still needed.

    Idea 1: Low Speed Vehicles (LSV)
    The easiest way to think of LSVs is a street legal version of a golf cart, even though some LSVs look nothing like a golf cart.

    Sizes are evolving, but in general LSVs are ~1/4 the size of gas powered cars. Electric LSVs can be run from clean energy which is even more attractive. LSVs do have a limited range of travel, so they are best suited for local travel. LSVs have a federally mandated maximum speed of 25 MPH. This lower speed would allow a senior that has had to give up their gas powered car keys to still be able to drive the LSVs.

    If a large enough number of people use LSVs for local travel, cities (and developments) can convert gas powered car parking spaces to LSV parking spaces and use this reclaimed space for alternative uses such as outdoor cafe seating or more housing units.

    The following blog post illustrates a LSV charging station. The space for this was created be converting gas powered car parking to LSV parking with some of the saved space becoming a seating area. I am not sure if the state of Colorado is unique in this aspect, but Colorado legalized the reselling of electricity by non-utility companies. Thus, a charging station such as this could become an economic generator for the government or private business that owns the land.

    Idea 2: Personal Transportation Hubs

    This is essentially a multi-modal car sharing program. Multi-modal in that the vehicles may consist of cars, LSVs, bikes, etc. The concept is that any grouping of housing, be it in the city or in the suburbs, could share these vehicles. Thus, as a need arises, the right type of vehicle will be available without each housing unit having to own all of these vehicle types.

    Blog post on this:

    • Seth Goodman says:

      Hi Scott, thanks for your comment.
      The graph shows what is needed for vehicular circulation only. In practice, efficiencies for parking lots range from approximately 300 – 400 square feet per spot. I chose 325 sf per spot because it is very difficult to get more efficient than that. The striped area next to the parked car represents a portion of the turning radius required at the end of each aisle. Often this is where you will see the lone sickly tree planted in the lot at the grocery store or mall.

  2. Cave Johnson says:

    I like the idea, but I think you are double-counting circulation space. This space is used by all spaces and is not particular to the space. Note that you did not include common spaces in the apartment such as elevators and hallways. A bit of a digression, the point is still the same.

    • Seth Goodman says:

      Cave, thank you for bringing up the issue of circulation space, it is an important one.
      The standard aisle width for double loaded parking (the most efficient form) is 24 feet. The graph shows the space allotted for each spot to the centerline of the circulation aisle. It is true that common spaces such as hallways and elevators are not shown with the apartment. These are more difficult to quantify since there is no standard size and varies substantially between buildings. I have personally lived in an apartment that opens directly onto the parking lot with zero communal space. The graph of the apartment itself is an estimate since most parking minimums for apartments are based on the number of bedrooms and not the square footage of the units. For reference, a standard corridor is between 5 and 6 feet or about one quarter of the width of a parking drive aisle.

  3. Michael Lewyn says:

    Isn’t there a similar graph somewhere showing parking requirements across the usa?

  4. Paul Robinson says:

    Very interesting piece. I know little of north American zoning but here in the UK, we moved from minimum to maximum parking standards about 10 years ago. Developers were set a maximum number of spaces per unit and would need to justify why more should be added. It has had its faults, but in larger cities it has allowed higher densities, more emphasis on cycling and public transport and the co-sharing of space, as well as ‘car share clubs’ where 2 or 3 vehicles are available with large developments for resident usage (like a hire car) so that day time spaces can be used by residents at night. There is a move now back towards minimum standards, which most view as the wrong move. Clearly it can’t work across the board but it has certainly helped to rethink and reshape the city, with less wasted space given over to parked automobiles and more for people, open space etc.

Leave a Comment

Please keep it civil and constructive. Our editors reserve the right to monitor inappropriate comments and personal attacks.


You may add a link with HTML: <a href="URL">text to display</a>