Map Monday: Parking per Acre in Des Moines

It is true that Des Moines it not in Minnesota. And yet there is a new study out from the Research Institute for Housing in America (or RIHA) about the density and type of parking in five US cities, the closest being Des Moines, IA (metro population 634K, 270 miles south of Saint Paul).

In the study, the researchers counted all the off-street parking spaces in the city and measured them on a per-capita basis, alongside other factors like land value and jobs per acre. The result is an inventory of expensive-to-produce parking.

Minnesota cities are likely to be very similar to Des Moines in terms of their abundance of parking.  I believe the built form of Minneapolis-Saint Paul would follow the same patterns as those here in Iowa, as would smaller cities like Rochester or Mankato.

Here’s what the report says about Des Moines

In Des Moines, the land price decile analysis reveals a mosaic of land prices, with the downtown core and some high-end residential areas sharing the top decile (Figure 18). Figure 19 shows structured parking density increases as land prices increase. Throughout Des Moines, parking density is greater than the density of homes or jobs.

Parking in Des Moines has an estimated replacement cost of $6.4 billion. The per-household share is $77,165, or 60 percent of the cost of the median-priced home in Des Moines.

Eighty-three percent of the parking spaces in Des Moines are in off-street surface parking spaces that are evenly distributed throughout the city. The spatial analysis shows geographical spikes in both off-street structured and off- street surface parking in the downtown area.

A spot-count of the Des Moines downtown park-and-ride garage found parking occupancy at 8 percent, 875 of the 950 public parking spaces were empty.1 And a 2012 park- ing occupancy study for 120 blocks in the downtown area of Des Moines found parking occupancy at 65 percent.

Here’s a chart comparing jobs, parking, and # in the metro area:

The conclusion of the study calls for greater scrutiny of parking policies:

The luxurious amount of parking inventoried in this research was built at great expense, with a value of $81 billion for just five cities. Future projects can use an exhaustive parking inventory to locate potential sites that are oversupplied with nearby parking, and allocate capital to non-parking uses.

Each city in this study has a unique parking inventory and a distinct opportunity rising from its parking supply. New York’s inventory shows that public transit plays a role in tempering parking density which then enables higher hous- ing and jobs density. Philadelphia’s abundant off-street surface parking, even in the most expensive areas, is an opportunity for developers to transform parking lots into other uses in convenient locations. Seattle’s abundance of structured parking, especially in the areas with the most

expensive land, provides an opportunity to reduce future construction costs by providing less structured parking in new buildings. Des Moines has enough parking of all types, and low enough parking utilization, to encourage developers to provide less parking in future projects which would reduce construction costs. Jackson planners can encourage property developers to provide fewer parking spaces and more housing, thereby addressing the local housing crunch. And finally, Jackson, Des Moines, Seattle and Philadelphia can all work to increase their public transit offerings, thereby inviting people to arrive at their destinations without the need to park.

In short, we are just starting to learn more about how much parking cities have. But the complexity of decisions to come is unknown. We don’t know exactly how parking demand will change with coming technological, economic and social change. It’s also not clear if providing too little parking is riskier than providing too much. What is clear is that a better understanding of our parking infrastructure will be essential to effectively and efficiently navigate these changes.

It’d be nice to know exactly how much, collectively, our state, cities, and towns have invested in parking spaces in Minnesota. My guess is that this report about nearby Des Moines give us a good ballpark.


Bill Lindeke

About Bill Lindeke

Pronouns: he/him

Bill Lindeke has writing blogging about sidewalks and cities since 2005, ever since he read Jane Jacobs. He is a lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota Geography Department, the Cityscape columnist at Minnpost, and has written multiple books on local urban history. He was born in Minneapolis, but has spent most of his time in St Paul. Check out Twitter @BillLindeke or on Facebook.