I am sure you have all heard the cautionary tale of Goldilocks, about a young girl who entered the house of a family of bears and tried their food, chairs, and beds. In the story, Goldilocks is not a fan of the food, chairs, and beds of the larger bears, but the baby bear’s items are just right!

Now, you may be asking yourself, “Has Brett lost his mind? He’s blogging about a children’s story.”

Let me get to the point. We’re going to examine differing parking planning philosophies like Goldilocks would.

The traditional method for defining parking needs included looking in a manual or a dusty old city code ordinance and doing a simple series of calculations that defined parking needs based on a building’s total square footage. Let’s call this the “Too Big” approach. Typically, codes are based on sampling of suburban sites, which begs the question, “Why are we applying suburban parking practices in our downtown?”

Newer methodologies include “shared parking,” which has drastically changed the way we plan for parking. Under this philosophy, the planner would look for compatible land uses that might be able to share a common pool of parking spaces. The analysis would use typical time of day patterns to predict peak and hourly parking conditions. The problem with this approach? We are still using generic parking generation rates that come from a small sample of sites, which can still result in a misrepresentation of parking. Let’s call this the “Slightly Too Big” approach.

The newest form of planning takes the form of “Right Sized Parking,” and is a concept that aims to localize parking decisions by factoring in unique conditions such as transit, user characteristics, and actual demand attributes. The intent of this approach is to better define parking demand, reduce (or sometimes enlarge) parking needs based on actual community characteristics, and provide more developable space. It is based on local data, either collected continuously or modeled in parking planning applications.

Given the state of urban planning, smart growth, and increased efficiency through sustainability measures and infrastructure reduction, isn’t it time parking got it just right? The next time you sit down to think about how you manage your community’s supply and demand, think about Goldilocks and just the right size.