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Minimum Parking Requirements, Transit Proximity and Development in New York City

Combines theoretical discussion of parking requirements in New York City quantitative analysis of how they relate to transit and development opportunity


Among the central policy goals of the current New York City mayoral administration is accommodating rapid projected population growth while simultaneously improving the City’s overall environmental performance, addressing externalities arising from traffic congestion and providing increased access to affordable housing. In support of these goals, the City has developed a long term sustainable growth plan, PlaNYC 2030 (City of New York, 2008), is engaged in an active land use and planning program, and is spending hundreds of millions of dollars subsidizing the construction or preservation of income-restricted housing.

Potentially running counter to these related goals, however, is the longstanding requirement in the City’s zoning code that new residential construction in most neighborhoods be accompanied by a minimum number of off-street parking spaces. Such parking requirements, critics argue, could increase the cost of new housing by forcing developers to incur construction costs building more parking than otherwise demanded by the market or needed by low and moderate income tenants. Required oversupplies of parking, by consuming land area, might also reduce the density at which developers would otherwise be able to build new housing, restricting the supply of new units. If requiring the construction of an oversupply of new parking spaces, the City may also be facilitating higher levels of car ownership and thwarting efforts to reduce traffic congestion and emissions of carbon and other pollutants.

In this research, we explore residential off-street parking requirements in contemporary New York City, the most transit-accessible city in the U.S. We begin with a brief description of New York City residential parking requirements, their evolution and a discussion of their possible unintended consequences, including frustrating transportation, environmental policy and housing affordability goals. We present this discussion in the context of prior academic research regarding parking requirements and related topics. Next, by analyzing the New York City zoning code and using Geographical Information Systems (GIS), we describe the geographical implications of the current parking requirements at the City, borough and neighborhood level, and the requirements’ relationship to transit accessibility and underdeveloped sites. We conclude by outlining the further steps that would boost our understanding of the relationship between parking requirements, on the one hand, and transportation behavior and housing affordability, on the other. In this way, we add to the growing debate about the role of minimum parking standards and their potential to undermine some of the City’s other key policy goals.