How shared and automated mobility will shake up the market for parking space

The economic and environmental costs of parking spaces for cars are huge. Shared mobility is already affecting this market, and the effects will become more pronounced when automated and electric cars become more widespread. The net effect is likely to be an important net decrease in the demand for parking space, especially in urban areas. This freed space could be used to increase the attractiveness of cities, and to reduce their vulnerability to the consequences of climate change. However, there is also a risk that policy makers will increase road capacity and induce new traffic.

• The economic and environmental costs of parking spaces for cars are huge.

• The rise of shared, automated and electric mobility will transform this market.

• The net effect is likely to be a net decrease in the demand for parking space

• Policy will be key in how this freed parking space will be used – whether to improve the climate resilience of cities, or whether it attracts new traffic.

The high cost of providing parking space to cars is coming under increasing scrutiny. Some of these costs are obvious; parking takes up scarce space which is especially problematic in urban areas, where it competes with other land uses. When parking is provided for free, private car owners use infrastructure that has been paid for by other taxpayers. Moreover, the need to find parking space is in itself a source of congestion (see Shoup, 2011).

The sharing economy is already affecting the demand for parking through diverse channels, with opposing effects:

  • In the case of round-trip carsharing, cars are allocated dedicated parking spaces (Le Vine et al., 2014). Although this reduces the parking space that is available for other cars, thanks to the higher mileage of shared cars, the parking needs per shared car are actually lower (Firnkorn and Shaheen, 2015).
  • The business model of the sharing economy is also applied to parking spaces themselves. One interesting avenue is to have building blocks renting excessive parking capacity to carsharing systems. Alternatively, this excess capacity could be used to install bicycle parking, or to manage a shuttle system from the housing block to public transit stations ( A variant is so-called “parking cash-out”, where employees can opt out of a parking space and receive compensation from their employer who leases/owns the space (Chan and Shaheen, 2012).
  • In cities where Transportation Network Companies have important market shares, congestion supposedly has worsened, partly due to induced traffic, but also due to practices such as double parking in bike lanes and bus stops when passengers are taken on board or dropped off ( Arguably, if shared mobility leads to a net reduction in parking needs, then this specific problem would become ‘simply’ a question of re-allocating the free parking space as pick-up/drop-off zones.

The demand for parking space will be even further transformed when automated vehicles (AVs) start hitting the road in significant numbers.

On the upside, as AVs do not need to be parked by humans, people can be driven to places without parking facilities, and will not need to cruise around to find parking . This could have an immediate beneficial impact on congestion.

In the longer run, the reduction in parking needs could also free substantial amounts of urban space for alternative uses. For instance, one study suggests that, in the long run, the generalised use of AVs could lead to 95% decrease in the need for public parking (ITF, 2015).

On the downside, the AVs will now have to drive to places where parking is available (or cheaper), or to catch other users. Several studies, using different approaches, show that this “repositioning” of empty AVs could lead to an important increase in traffic flows (Greenblatt and Shaheen, 2015; Childress et al., 2015; Morrow et al., 2014; Levin and Boyles, 2015).

This reduction in the need for parking space will be counteracted by another emerging trend: the increasing share of electric cars, which need a charging infrastructure. The absence of parking spaces with charging infrastructure is already a barrier to a further development of shared electric mobility (

With shared automated electric vehicles (SAEVs), the requirements in terms of recharging stations can become even larger (Kockelman et al., 2016). However, taking into account the number of privately owned vehicles than can be replaced by SAEVs, the net overall demand for parking is likely to decrease, even if the demand for charging stations increases. Moreover, as the effects of fluctuating electricity demand on the grid will be mitigated through the use of dynamic pricing of electricity, electricity pricing will become one of the numerous pricing parameters that affect the overall equilibrium in a mobility system of SAEVs (Joskow and Wolfram, 2012).

The reduced need for parking space may lead to a dramatic change in the urban landscape. Policy will be key in determining the eventual outcome. To give just a few examples:

  • Using the freed space for parks, community gardens or other forms of “green space” will have a direct impact on the attractiveness of cities, and may counteract the trend towards increased sprawl. Moreover, they will help in countering “urban heat island” effects which will become increasingly important with climate change.
  • The freed space could be used to increase the size of permeable areas in cities, and thus reduce the risk of flash floods (which, again, are more likely to occur as the result of extreme weather events).
  • If it is decided to use the freed place to increase road capacity, this will lead to new induced traffic.
  • In cities with a lack of affordable housing in the centre, the freed space could be used to provide for additional housing.
  • Chan, N.D. & Shaheen S. (2012) Ridesharing in North America: Past, Present, and Future, Transport Reviews: A Transnational Transdisciplinary Journal, 32:1, 93-112, DOI: 10.1080/01441647.2011.621557
  • Childress, S., Nichols, B., Charlton, B. & Coe, S. (2015). Using An Activity-Based Model To Explore Possible Impacts Of Automated Vehicles. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board.Travel Demand Forecasting, Volume 1,
  • Firnkorn, J., & Shaheen, S. , Generic time- and method-interdependencies of empirical impact-measurements: A generalizable model of adaptation-processes of carsharing-users’ mobility-behavior over time, Journal of Cleaner Production (2015),
  • Greenblatt, J. B. and Shaheen, S., Automated Vehicles, On-Demand Mobility, and Environmental Impacts, Current Sustainable/Renewable Energy Reports, 2015, vol 2, n° 3, pp 74—81.
  • International Transport Forum (ITF) (2015) How shared self-driving cars could change city traffic? Corporate Partnership Board,
  • Joskow, P.L. & Wolfram, C.D., 2012. Dynamic Pricing of Electricity, American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(3), pages 381-85, May.
  • Kockelman, K.M., Chen D. & Hanna, J. (2016) Operations of a Shared, Autonomous, Electric Vehicle (SAEV) Fleet: Implications of Vehicle & Charging Infrastructure Decisions. Proceedings of the 95th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board (2016), and under review for publication in Transportation Research Part A (2015).
  • Le Vine, S., Zolfaghari A. & Polak, J. (2014), Carsharing: Evolution, Challenges and Opportunities, 22th ACEA Scientific Advisory Group Report
  • Levin, M.W. & Boyles, S.D. (2015), Effects of Autonomous Vehicle Ownership on Trip, Mode, and Route Choice, Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, Volume 2493, 2015, Travel Demand Forecasting, Vol. 1   DOI:
  • Morrow, III, W. R., Greenblatt, J.B., Sturges, A., Saxena, S., Anand, R. Gopal, A.R., Millstein, D., Shah, N. and Gilmore, E.A. (2014), Key factors influencing autonomous vehicles’ energy and environmental outcome, in Road Vehicle Automation. Meyer, G., Beiker, S. (Eds.)
  • Shoup, D.  2011. The High Cost of Free Parking, revised edition, Chicago: Planners Press.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.