Fact sheet: Inflexible car parking rules

26 February 2011

Mandatory and inflexible minimum and maximum control on car parking numbers will not reduce car ownership.

In many instances, it stops new housing, new workplaces and new retail premises from being built.

In other instances, it will lead to more cars being parked on the street.


Mandatory limits on residential car parking will not reduce car ownership

Some suggestion that the car parking located to new homes should be limited by government regulation.

For example, Parramatta Council, in Sydneys west, has been considering a proposal to limit new homes to one parking space each even for three bedroom homes. The City of Sydney is current considering prohibiting some new homes from having any car parking at all.

Policies of this kind will simply mean that more vehicles will occupy street car parking spaces for longer periods of time and in greater numbers. The impact on local amenity will most certainly give rise to community disapproval.

The development of residential areas and centres that are dense, compact, with a mix of uses, will encourage greater walking and public transport use. In fact, some people may even choose to do without a car altogether. However, ownership of a private motorcar will continue to be a necessity for most people.

While the metropolitan rail systems are predominantly radial (towards a single urban centre), a significant proportion of all travel activity is regional and cross regional. While rail networks are most useful in getting people to and from their jobs; they are much less useful for trips such as:

¢ getting children to weekend sport;

¢ social visits to family and friends; or

¢ transporting shopping purchases home.

Thats why people continue to seek private car ownership. The benefits of compact pedestrian friendly communities around public transport nodes will not be reduced car ownership; the benefit is more likely to be lower car usage. Sensible land use and transport planning allows for all modes of transport (cars, transit, walking and cycling) and plans must consider and integrate these.

Where parking is limited, there are major social impacts caused by the lack of off-street parking. The impact of overflow on on-street parking in surrounding streets is well known.


Imposing blanket restrictions will make most retail development unviable

Some people advocate restricting car parking at new retail premises.

For example, Parramatta Council has been considering a proposal to llimit shops to one parking space for every 30 square metres of gross floor area. This proposal will cripple many development opportunities.

Most retail development requires one car parking space for every 20 square metres in order to be viable.

Many developments that are necessary to provide competitive tension with existing shopping centre landlords will be made commercially unattractive by this kind of blanket rule

Advocates of such blanket restrictions rarely include any assessment to demonstrate and/or quantify modal shifts brought about by the proposed policy initiative, nor do they provide any robust traffic impact assessment to ensure that local amenity and safety has not been compromised.


Inflexible minimums and maximum are both undesirable

Neither inflexible minimum, nor maximum car parking provisions are good public policy.
For example, Parramatta Council has been proposing to cap commercial office development to one car parking space for every 100 square metres of gross floor area. While some commercial developments close to public transport may still be viable with less car parking, others wont be.

We dont think that any blanket minimum or maximum standard on car parking should be imposed for development close to public transport each proposal should be judged on its merits.

For example, some restaurants (and some shops) will not require any car parking (i.e. those whose business model relies entirely on foot traffic).


Developers should be free to provide car parking sufficient to meet local needs

The Urban Taskforce has consistently expressed concern at any move towards a strategic capping of car parking spaces.

Such caps, particularly when set at unrealistically low levels, can effectively sterilise the development potential of land.

Sensible land use and transport planning allows for all modes of transport (cars, transit, walking and cycling) and plans must consider and integrate all of these modes. In this regard, planning urban areas in the vicinity of mass transit should continue to provide car related infrastructure (parking and roads), at an appropriate rate.

There is a large body of evidence from inner Sydney experience to demonstrate that limiting car parking is an ineffective tool in encouraging public transport use. North Sydney and City of Sydney (and the former South Sydney Council) have attempted to use this tool for some time. It has been found to be crude and ineffective.

It is widely accepted that urban public transport systems cannot service non-centre related trips. Crude tools to reduce car ownership hinder economic development as they weaken the communitys ability to access employment and services.

If good public transport exists people will use it for some of their trips, despite their ownership of a car.

Ironically, in some areas the unintended outcome of concentrating new residents around railway stations has been overcrowding at some stations and trains. This unfortunately erodes the attractiveness of using public transport and thus promotes car use. Any promotion of public transport use must be commensurate with investment in public transport.


More information

For more information (and source details) please read our fact sheet:



Fact Sheet: Inflexible car parking rules