LA Explained: Is There Too Much Parking or Never Enough? (2023)

Parking in Los Angeles has been called the "lowest circle of hell," a "blood sport" and a few other choice combinations of adjectives and expletives. But dealing with parking here, and all the grief that comes with it, is hard to avoid.

But when we shake our fists at parking, what exactly are we railing against?

The parking supply?

Curb regulations?

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The Brief


Here's some broad context about what analysts say the problem is, how we got here, and signs about where we might be headed next.

There Is Too Much Parking In L.A. There Is Too Little Parking In L.A.

Part of the problem is that we're not even on the same page about what the problem is.

Many residents (including dozens of you who wrote in to share your parking gripes with us) argue that we just need more lots, structures, unpermitted street parking and dedicated spots in apartment buildings so that we don't have to battle it out in the streets anymore. But many transportation experts say it's the opposite: L.A. has far too much parking.

It may not seem that way when you're trying to find a spot, but keep in mind that parking availability varies wildly across the city and county, so what you experience in, say, Koreatown or downtown L.A. is not representative of the full parking situation. Here's the (very) big parking picture:

The total space dedicated to surface lot parking in L.A. County is greater than the size of four Manhattans. That's about 101 square miles, according to a 2018 study by design firm Woods Bagot. Within the city of L.A., the total surface lot space is larger than the entire size of Pasadena, or about 27 square miles.

And if you account for even more types of parking spaces -- like on-street parking and off-street parking (i.e., lots and garages for residential and non-residential buildings) -- that's about 200 square miles, or 14% of L.A. County's land committed to parking, according to a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Planning Association.

That study estimated that there were about 3.3 parking spaces for each of the 5.6 million vehicles in the county at the time of data collection.

Some of the criticism against plentiful parking is that it encourages more driving and adds to traffic congestion, that it takes up land which could be used for other purposes (like housing), and that it contributes to our carbon emissions.

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Yes, alternative modes of transportation do exist, but that doesn't necessarily mean those options are realistic for, or interesting to, everyone. So as long as we've got cars, we're going to need a place to put them.

The Route To Here

Our well-known reliance on cars took shape in Los Angeles's post-World War II era, which saw a massive development boom, the embrace of freeways, abandonment of the streetcar system and general urban sprawl.

Parking requirements came of age around this time, too. As the adoption of cars grew in the 1910s and '20s, and development picked up pace, so did the need to set some rules about parking availability.

"Imagine a situation where there wasn't enough space for [cars], and people were putting cars in places like people are putting scooters now," said Juan Matute, deputy director of UCLA's Institute for Transportation Studies. "And so the approach at the time was, okay, whenever we're doing some sort of new land use project -- an apartment, strip mall, market -- we need to make sure that it's not increasing demand for parking."

That meant ensuring that new developments had parking spaces to go along with them. In the mid-1930s, Los Angeles began requiring that new residential units come with a minimum number of parking spaces. And as the development boom took off, more parking cropped up with it.

LA Explained: Is There Too Much Parking or Never Enough? (1)

The parking lot of the Wilshire Country Club in Hancock Park, Los Angeles, circa 1937.

(Herman J. Schultheis Collection/Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library)

Today, minimum parking requirements are the norm for apartments, shops, restaurants and other destinations across the county. In the city of L.A., a single-family home is required to have two dedicated parking spots. Restaurants and cafes must have one parking spot per 100 square feet the building takes up, and apartment buildings are required to have 1-2 spots per unit depending on the size of the unit and how many people it can accommodate. (You can see a full list of requirements here.)

Some neighborhoods, like Koreatown, have housing stock that was largely built before L.A. parking requirements took off. Combine that with a population surge and gentrification and you arrive at today's situation: daily residential parking as a combative sport.

This Is Also Partially Why L.A. Has So Much Valet

Parking regulations/minimums might not be the only reason valet parking is such a fixture in L.A. -- you could also consider the work of Herb Citrin, the "godfather of valet," who is largely credited with popularizing the service in L.A. and transforming it into an industry -- but they play a role.

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For example, a business can opt for a valet service as a way to fit in more parking onto less land and meet its parking requirement. And if, for example, a restaurant (requiring one parking spot per 100 square feet) wants to move into a space formerly occupied by a retail store (requiring one parking spot per 250 feet), it has the flexibility to do so by getting a valet service that can help it meet its parking requirement. Valet is, to some degree, a parking loophole (or wormhole -- WHERE DOES THE CAR GO?!).

Just How Expensive Is Parking In L.A.?

There was a common theme among many who wrote to us with their parking complaints: the cost of parking is too damn high. Is it true? How do we stack up against other major cities?

Again, because parking situations are so varied across the city and county, it's tricky to pin down exactly how expensive it is on the whole. But here's some of the data available:

  • HOURLY: Downtown L.A., likely the priciest part of the city for parking, ranks as the 7th most expensive major city business district out of 40 U.S. cities in terms of hourly parking rates, at a median rate of $9.50 an hour, according to parking service provider Parkopedia's 2018 U.S. Parking Index.

    That figure takes into account the rates of all publicly available off-street parking facilities in Parkopedia's database, which includes data for central business districts of major U.S. cities. Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Minneapolis all outrank L.A. And while L.A.'s figure is pretty high, it doesn't come anywhere close to the number one most expensive business district -- New York City -- which has a median hourly parking rate of $27.

  • MONTHLY: When it comes to downtown L.A.'s daily and monthly parking rates, it ranks lower on the list: 19th and 16th, respectively, according to Parkopedia's top 40 index. New York City once again tops both those lists at a median of $42.25 daily (compared to L.A.'s $16) and $616 for unreserved monthly parking (compared to $190 in L.A.).

    While this isn't a ton of data, it does suggest that parking in the most high-demand part of L.A. is relatively pricey compared to other U.S. cities -- but nowhere near as bad as it could be.

  • FINES: Here's where L.A. city shoots up toward the top of the list. The average parking ticket in L.A. is $68, according to LADOT -- and a 2017 study from INRIX, a mobility analytics company, reported that L.A. drivers receive an average of 1.05 tickets per year. That means across the board, Angelenos pay $71 a year on parking fines, or $148 million collectively across the city. That's way above the average amount that drivers across the United States pay in parking fines per year -- just $12.

In this regard, L.A. outranks all other major cities that INRIX surveyed -- except, again, New York City. Its drivers spend $85 per year on parking fines. (We get it, parking in NYC is awful.)
The picture of overall costs looks different, however, if you include not only paid lots and fines, but also the "free" stuff -- think: residential street parking, plaza lots, private driveways and office buildings.

Oh Right. Tell Me More About The Free Parking.

Well, some analysts think there's no such thing.Well, some analysts think there's no such thing.

Donald Shoup, a research professor of urban planning at UCLA, argues that ostensibly "free" parking -- think grocery stores, shopping malls, apartment buildings and elsewhere -- simply passes on invisible costs in other ways, leaving the entire community, including non-drivers, to shoulder the burden. He described the situation in his influential 2005 book, "The High Cost of Free Parking":

"If drivers don't pay for parking, who does? Everyone does, even if they don't drive. Initially the developer pays for the required parking, but soon the tenants do, and then their customers, and so on, until the cost of parking has diffused everywhere in the economy. When we shop in a store, eat in a restaurant, or see a movie, we pay for parking indirectly because its cost is included in the prices of merchandise, meals, and theater tickets. We unknowingly support our cars with almost every commercial transaction we make because a small share of the money changing hands pays for parking."
LA Explained: Is There Too Much Parking or Never Enough? (2)

Parking signs in DTLA.

(Becca Murray/LAist)

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What Is L.A. Doing About The Parking Situation?

We're not in a fun position. L.A. is already deep in car-centrism and sprawl, and there's no quick way to change that. However, a few things are already happening that might gradually ease some of our parking pressures, like the expansion of Metro, use of rideshare services, e-scooters, bikes and the slow march toward a possible autonomous vehicle future.

In recent years a few proposals have cropped up that are aimed at making parking at least a little more efficient.

L.A. rolled out LA Express Park back in 2012, a pilot program that uses demand-based pricing for street meters downtown and supplies realtime information about available spaces and rates. City leaders have largely seen the project as a success, and it's since expanded into Westwood in 2015 and Hollywood in 2018.

Another idea has been gaining in popularity in cities across the U.S.: lowering or eliminating minimum parking requirements in certain areas. That would involve stripping the requirement for new developments to have a certain number of dedicated parking spots. Developers would still be free to build them, of course -- they just wouldn't be required to.

"Parking requirements are forcing the parking supply up," Shoup said. "Removing the parking requirements doesn't force the supply down. It just says we won't force you to increase it beyond what you would normally provide."

A change like that, if it happened, might be likely to occur in a dense, transit-friendly area. Downtown L.A. has already experimented with something similar. In 1999 the city launched a program that allowed downtown L.A. to convert older commercial buildings into housing. One of several provisions was that developers would not have to add on the required amount of parking spaces that new housing would typically mandate. The housing boom of the time saw 70 buildings converted into more than 6,000 housing units between 1999 and 2008..

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning at UCLA, analyzed the program and found it led to more flexibility with parking.

Some developers used offsite garages instead of digging new ones for residents, while in other cases they supplied new parking spots but not as many as would have been required under the general city standard. He also found that housing units that did not come with parking were associated with a savings of about $200 compared to those that came bundled with spaces.

The idea of eliminating or reducing parking minimums is not without thorns, however.

Some arguments against it say that housing without parking wouldn't necessarily be cheaper, since developers could just pocket the extra savings, and that without dramatic improvements in public transportation, neighborhoods would just end up with more competition for already limited curb space.

While the city hasn't quite jumped on board with the move, in 2013 it did approve the Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan, a project to create a mixed-use neighborhood that doesn't come with any parking requirements.

In the years since then, more and more cities have gone the way of reducing parking minimums. Santa Monica did away with them in 2017. San Francisco did the same in late 2018, and San Diego followed in March 2019. And SB 50, the controversial state bill that would allow for taller, more dense development near transit, would also relax or eliminate parking requirements in those same areas.

Any policy changes or technological advances wouldn't produce any significant changes in our day-to-day parking for a good while, of course. Till then, we'll have lean on our coping and survival skills.

What questions do you have about how L.A. works?

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Caitlin Hernández explains what makes L.A. tick so that you can navigate our complicated city. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Why is this like this and not like that? How does that work? Does it actually work?” then they want to hear from you. Share your question below.


How can we solve the problem of parking? ›

Below are some specific strategies for increasing parking supply.
  1. Minimum Parking Requirements.
  2. Increase On-Street (Curb) Parking.
  3. Subsidize Off-street Parking.
  4. Add Remote Parking Spaces.
  5. Redesign Existing Parking Facilities.
  6. Car Stackers and Mechanical Garages.
  7. Provide Parking Information to Users.

Why do people park next to you when the parking lot is empty? ›

It is plausible that people tend to park next to other people's cars because they like the idea of social cohesion in public, or they might associate social cohesion with safety. They might think that parking next to another car reduces their car's chances of being broken into or crashed against.

What is the problem with parking? ›

Saturated parking spaces

One of the most common problems today is a saturation of parking spaces. Vehicles continue to outnumber existing parking spaces, thus clogging roads. Incidences of violence over occupancy, deformed cars due to a space crunch, and overcharging for parking are some problems that result.

What percentage of LA is parking lots? ›

Roughly 14 percent of L.A. County's incorporated land is tied to parking.

Why is parking lot important? ›

Parking spaces are very important to cities. A city must have enough parking spaces to provide their residents and their visitors a place to park their car. Since cars are a main factor in transportation, a city must meet the needs of the drivers.

How can parking management be improved? ›

Strengthen parking enforcement by developing more convenient payment and time options. Share parking facilities. Parking can be shared among different business in an area to take advantage of different peak periods. Encourage businesses to share parking.

When parking on a hill What can you do to make sure that row vehicle will not roll DM into traffic? ›

Turn your front wheels away from the curb and then back up a bit until the tires touch the curb. By turning your wheels away from the curb, your car will roll back and hit the curb if your brakes fail. This can help prevent your car from rolling into traffic.

What are the 3 types of parking? ›

For most motorised vehicles, there are three commonly used arrangements of parking spaces—parallel parking, perpendicular parking, and angle parking. These are self-park configurations where the vehicle driver is able to access the parking independently.

How nearby wrong parking problem is affecting us? ›

It also creates congestion and reduces the real estate available for more important purposes, such as housing, transit, parks and public space. Parking also contributes to urban sprawl by increasing the distance between each building.

Why is illegal parking an issue? ›

Illegal parking can lead to reduced traffic speeds, congestion, changes in modal choice, loss of revenue from valid parking spaces, a decline in respect for the law and even to accidents.

Is parking difficult in LA? ›

Even though there are plenty of parking lots and garages, finding a cheap and secure Los Angeles parking spot is not as easy as you'd think. The city has a relatively high vehicle density, which makes it tougher to find vacant garage spaces. Check out our top tips and tricks to find affordable parking in Los Angeles.

How expensive is parking in LA? ›

Los Angeles Parking Rates
Parking Los Angeles Parking Rates
Garage Parking$7 - $38.40
Uncovered Parking$5 - $40
Garage Valet Parking$9.25 - $35

How many parking lots are in LA? ›

L.A. has almost 6 million parking spaces, or 1.5 for every resident, including children. In downtown, our city's most walkable, Metro-accessible neighborhood, there are about 400,000 spaces.

How would you describe a parking lot? ›

A parking lot is an area that is assigned for parking. Normally, the parking spaces are marked on the ground with white or yellow lines that form squares that each fit one car. Parking lots are common near shops, bars, restaurants and other facilities that require parking.

What is the difference between a car park and a parking lot? ›

Car park is the British English term, the North American English term is parking lot. A muliple-storied building where cars may be parked is referred to as a multi-storey car park in British English, and a parking garage in American English.

What is a smart parking system? ›

Smart Parking is a parking strategy that combines technology and human innovation in an effort to use as few resources as possible—such as fuel, time and space—to achieve faster, easier and denser parking of vehicles for the majority of time they remain idle.

What is parking management control? ›

A Parking Management System is a tool that you can use to manage your parking simply and efficiently. With a tailor-made Parking Management System, you will spend less time managing your parking, and you will be able to maintain a good parking experience for your tenants. Solutions.

What is smart parking management system? ›

Smart Parking's SmartPark system fully integrates parking, guidance, payment and analytics as well as a host of other complementary services and options. This makes the complete SmartPark solution truly a sum of its parts, and an industry leader in the technology and parking sector.

How do you remember uphill and downhill parking? ›

Turning your wheels to the right means that if you are parked facing downhill, your vehicle will roll forward and away from the road, and if you are facing uphill, your vehicle will roll backwards and away from the road. Win-win.

Do you put your car in neutral when Hill parking? ›

Leaving your car in neutral or drive will increase the risk of it rolling backwards or forwards. Next, apply your emergency brake. Using your emergency brake is the best assurance that your car will not roll when parked on a hill. Before you turn off your vehicle, you must turn your tires.

What can you do if someone parks in your driveway? ›

If someone parks on your driveway, then they're trespassing, so it's a civil matter rather than a criminal offence. This means the police don't usually get involved. If you're lucky, the police may ask the driver to move their car, provided they can find the owner.

Which type of parking is best? ›

Angled parking spaces don't require vehicles to make a sharp turn when parking, making it easier for cars to maneuver in and out of the parking space. This also reduces the chances of a collision as drivers stay within the lines of their parking space.

What is the most difficult type of parking? ›

Did you know? 34% of drivers find parallel parking the most difficult parking technique. 8% of drivers admit to bumping the car in front or behind while parallel parking. Drivers say finding a parking space is the 15th most stressful thing in life.

What are the 5 types of parking? ›

The most common types of parking are angle parking, perpendicular parking and parallel parking. Angle parking is especially widespread in parking lots, where vehicles are designated to go one way. Perpendicular parking is similar to angle parking, but requires greater care in turning.

How much space is needed for a car in a parking lot? ›

The minimum size of a standard parking space shall be nine feet wide and eighteen feet long. Parking spaces within enclosed garages shall have an interior dimension of at least ten feet wide and twenty feet long. The minimum size of a compact parking space shall be eight feet wide and sixteen feet long.

How do I make more parking spaces? ›

To further optimize space in the parking areas, consider creating a lot that is rectangular rather than an irregular shape. Another standard recommendation is to make the long sides of the parking lot parallel to each other, with parking spaces located along the perimeter of the lot.

What does park question mean? ›

to not deal with something or answer a question immediately but leave it for a later time: Can we park that question until the end of the session?

How do I stop people parking on my land? ›

Issuing Parking Charge Notices is an effective solution to prevent unauthorised parking from occurring on your private land. If landowners opt for vehicle Parking Charge Notices, they will be responsible for placing a Parking Charge Notice on said vehicle or handing it to the driver.

Can someone park on your private property? ›

There is no criminal law against their car being left on your private property without your consent as it is an act of trespassing, which is classed as a civil offence.

How does poor parking impact traffic flow? ›

Illegal parking in cities eats road space away, leading to frequent traffic jams. Vehicles are often parked haphazardly without any consideration for other commuters. In just a short span of time, illegal parking hampers the normal flow of traffic and inconveniences pedestrians.

What is a smart parking system? ›

Smart Parking is a parking strategy that combines technology and human innovation in an effort to use as few resources as possible—such as fuel, time and space—to achieve faster, easier and denser parking of vehicles for the majority of time they remain idle.

What is stack parking system? ›

Their main purpose, as you may guess, is to stack one or more vehicles above the ground in a parking space. This allows people to utilize vertical space in parking areas that would normally go unused and park two or more cars in a space that would ordinarily house only one vehicle.

How do you park a large car in a small garage? ›

My Easy Way to Park a Car PERFECTLY in a Tight Garage ...

What are the 3 types of parking? ›

For most motorised vehicles, there are three commonly used arrangements of parking spaces—parallel parking, perpendicular parking, and angle parking. These are self-park configurations where the vehicle driver is able to access the parking independently.

Can smart parking take you to court? ›

Does Smart Parking take people to court? Smart Parking are not known to issue many court claims to enforce private parking tickets. Since tickets are based on contract law the only way they can force motorists to pay is by taking them to the county court.

Why do we need smart parking? ›

Smart parking solutions enable the municipalities to manage and reduce parking search traffic on the streets. This technology also ensures parking safety, but its major contribution to traffic congestion are the factors of making the parking experience faster, more convenient and hassle-free.

What is dependent parking? ›

Parking Systems have come a long way from having cars parked in a single row! Now you can come across two levels parking systems. In such parking systems if the upper platform can be used only when the lower car is removed, it is termed as dependent parking.

What is meant by podium parking? ›

Podium Parking means parking spaces that are covered by the ground floor of a building and are completely enclosed by walls. Podium parking may occur at or below the grade of the adjacent sidewalk.

What is Tandem car parking? ›

Tandem parking means that while you are assigned two parking spaces, they are configured like a single spot that's double in size. Technically, you have space for two cars. But practically, the first car to park in the space will be blocked in once the second vehicle parks behind it.

How do you secure a parking space? ›

The 5 Most Effective Ways to Secure Parking Lots
  1. Knowledgeable Users. If your parking lot primarily caters to employees, who regularly use the lot, establishing some basic security protocols is always a good idea. ...
  2. Better Surveillance Systems. ...
  3. Upgraded Lighting. ...
  4. Security Barriers. ...
  5. Parking Enforcement.
22 Mar 2019

How do you park in a tight parking lot? ›

Keep turning your steering wheel as you pull into the parking space until your car is parallel with the vehicles parked on either side of that space. Continue to slowly pull forward until your car is completely inside the parking space.

Can two cars fit in a one car garage? ›

Smaller lots have less room to play around with which might force you to build a single car garage. Garages that fit two cars need at least 18 feet wide by 22 feet deep.


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