ArticleCity.comArticle Categories PARKING LOT DESIGN and LAYOUT



When owners come to us for parking systems to generate revenue & control access, we’re frequently asked, “How should we layout our parking spaces?”

While that may seem like a simple question, there are many variables involved in parking lot design.

In this article, we’ll walk you through some of the most important considerations when choosing a layout for your parking lot. Keep in mind that Parking BOXX will provide drawings for your parking system layout, including island dimensions, parking machine & bollard positions, as well as required conduit and cabling for those machines. However, when designing your parking space configuration, we recommend an architect, builder, asphalt company … or for more basic projects, we suggest the below software options.

Before you apply for permits or start construction, we strongly recommend that you incorporate the parking system requirements, including conduit, cabling, and islands (as applicable), into your construction documents. This will ultimately save you time and money.

Here are our four recommended steps to starting your parking lot layout project!

Step #1: Lot Measurements

Knowing your exact parking lot measurements is very important. You may wish to start with a satellite image from Google Maps then draw in each boundary line. Some property legal descriptions include dimensions. Surveys will also typically include all of these measurements. Alternatively, take a measuring tape with you to site to precisely measure the available space. Keep in mind that a lot may have required setbacks from the property line. Further, there may be limits for the locations and widths of the entry and exit laneways for ingress and egress to the parking area.

Once you have your lot dimensions, you may want to start with grid paper or a basic software program (see below suggestions) to set up your canvas!

Step #2: Parking Space Dimensions & Parking Lot Layout

How many spaces you can fit in your parking layout depends in part on the dimension of each space. (Though, as we’ll discuss, there are many other elements you’ll need to include in your layout — parking spaces are just one.) Typically public parking spaces are 9’ x 18’ with tiny spaces as small as 7.25’ x 15.1’. Depending on the angles in which vehicles park, aisles for driving may be 11’ to 23’. Here is a super helpful resource to help you visualize the parking space layout options.  You may also find suggested layouts for corners or other traffic patterns in your parking lot design.

If you need to have Accessible Parking Spaces, there is additional guidance on page 20 of that resource.  Keep in mind to consult your local zoning and planning authorities to learn about all of the rules that apply to your area.

Step #3: Prepare a Preliminary Parking Layout

And now for the fun part! Use a software program to test lot configurations. If this seems a bit daunting, there are many architects and parking consultants who specialize in parking lot layout. For those who wish to DIY their lot layout, here are our parking lot design software recommendations.

For those who wish to DIY their lot layout, here are our parking lot design software recommendations.

RoomSketcher is free software for up to 5 projects. While intended for interior design layouts, it’s a quick, low-cost option that can be used for a basic parking lot layout. And because RoomSketcher is cloud-based, there is no need to download.

Using the software to layout your parking lot design is intuitive. Create a new project, then edit. Click on “1. Walls” and use the Divider or Wall options for the layout. Dimensions are shown as you extend the lines. You may create each parking stall to your desired dimensions. We really like how easily we can quickly create and visualize the parking lot layout!
ConceptDraw offers Site Plan software for parking lot layout and is free for 21 days. There are more robust options, including adding barrier gates, bollards, bike racks, lamp posts, trees and more.

And finally, for the more advanced, Transoft is an award-winning software for engineers, architects and land developers.

This software utilizes ParkCAD to design multiple parking sites in minutes and includes stall counts, set area dimensions, object editing and powerful reporting. ParkCAD will run combinations of row layouts, rotations and positions to create the optimal space yield based on the parameters input by the users. Once all of the iterations have been generated, it’s easy to review and select the best option.
Here is another detailed resource to help you refine your parking lot layout: The Complete Parking Lot Design Guide

Step #4: Calculate Your Potential ROI

After you’ve completed the parking space layout AND added your parking revenue system laneways, let’s start looking at how much revenue your parking lot can generate! For some of you, this is actually the fun part!

Start with our Parking Revenue Calculator. There are two calculators: basic & advanced. The Basic option incorporates 3 values: daily parkers, average parking price and days per year. 150 parkers paying $5 for 365 a year is $273,750 in revenue!

If you have monthly parkers plus different transient groups (i.e. day parkers, evening event parkers, weekend parkers, etc.) you may fill in those values to calculate what you believe to be your parking revenue.

Compare the parking system price to your potential revenue to determine your ROI as well as how long it will take you to pay off the system.

Additional Parking Lot Design Considerations

In addition to the above steps, here are a number of other considerations to keep in mind when evaluating parking lot layout design options.

Key Questions to Ask When Designing Your Parking Lot Layout

There are a number of questions you’ll need to ask whether you’re upgrading an existing lot, expanding or designing a completely new parking lot.

Your first parking lot layout considerations include the following:

  • What type of parking traffic will use the parking lot? (What’s the purpose of the lot?)
  • What configuration of spaces will you need?
  • What are the dimensions of the spaces you need?
  • How does the setting constrain your layout decisions?
  • Where will you locate the entrance and exit lanes?
  • What type of parking system will be installed – metered or gated?

Parking lot consultants can help you work through these parking lot layout questions. But some lot owners want to DIY the design. Others who do choose to hire a consultant want to understand parking lot layout so they can make the most informed decisions about lot design.

Different Types of Customers Require Different Parking Layouts

The right layout for one parking lot may be completely wrong for another and it largely comes down to purpose.

  • What type of vehicles will use your lot?
  • What types of parking spaces do they need?
  • Are there requirements or standards you need to consider?

Busy retail and commercial parking lots will have different requirements than lots with low turnover or work vehicles. But consider that your lot may have mixed uses. Retail businesses may need to accommodate customers as well as suppliers, who use parking facilities differently.

How can you get an accurate picture of the use of your lot?

If the lot is not yet developed, consult with the surrounding businesses, developers or city planners.

If the lot already exists and you’re upgrading or expanding, you can also do a traffic study by observing how people already use the lot. Ask customers what works and what doesn’t work.

How does knowing these details about how your parking lot will be used influence your parking lot layout?

In part, what you discover about parking lot use will dictate the type of spaces and where you’ll locate those spaces. For example:

  • If you’ll need shipment loading areas, you’ll have to factor those into your parking lot design.
  • If your parking lot is designed to accommodate shoppers with carts or loading large items into their vehicles, you may need to factor in wider parking spaces.
  • If buses use your parking lot, where will they unload and park?
  • If your parking lot accommodates a drive-through, factor in space for the additional lane and consider how to keep that traffic clear of other parking lot traffic and pedestrians.

The parking lot purpose can also inform the angles of your parking stalls or slots, as we’ll discuss further below. High turnover parking lots typically have spaces at 45 to 60-degree angles. It’s more difficult to park in a space at a 90-degree angle, so those are usually reserved for full-day or overnight parking.

Also, keep in mind that some industries have code requirements for parking or standard recommendations based on calculations of parking needs. (e.g. hotels.)

You’ll also need to know the accessibility requirements for your parking lot and what those mean for layout. Consult your latest building codes, state/province and federal laws for information on the required location, size and number of handicapped parking spaces.

In short, knowing the requirements is the first step to optimizing your parking lot layout. (Incidentally, deeply understanding requirements is also Parking BOXX’s first step when we consult with parking lot owners on their parking system and equipment needs.)

Configuring Your Parking Layout Design for Pedestrian Safety and Convenience

Designing your parking lot around foot traffic is important for safety and customer convenience.

While thinking about where people will naturally need to walk through and around your parking lot, keep these principles in mind:

If you align rows of parking spaces perpendicularly to the facility, you’ll minimize the number of pedestrian aisle crossings (which is ideal)

  • Provide plenty of access points and crosswalks from parking areas to facility entries
  • Separate pedestrian walkways from parking aisles whenever possible
  • Keep the number of aisles pedestrians must cross to a minimum
  • To safely allow pedestrians to walk in the drive aisles, parking aisle widths should be wider for two-way traffic; width varies with one-way parking depending on the angle of the parking
  • Accessible parking spaces should be located as close to the facility entrance as possible. Where there is more than one access point (for example, when your parking lot serves multiple buildings), accessible parking spots should be made available close to each entrance.
  • Try to keep parking spaces within 250 feet of a facility entrance. Proximity is especially key for customer or visitor parking.

Once you’ve identified key pedestrian considerations, let’s talk about laying out your parking to make the best use of space.

Parking Space Configuration for Efficiency and Driver Safety

How you layout your parking space configurations also has an impact on the efficiency of space use and how vehicles can best maneuver around your lot.

Basic best practices are to:

  • Eliminate dead-end parking areas, so there’s always a flow-through of traffic along aisles (the driving lanes facilitating access to parking spots)
  • Locate aisles and rows of parking parallel to the long dimension of the site
  • Orient parking on each side of an aisle

The three main parking configurations are parallel, perpendicular (90 degree), or at an angle to the aisle (30, 45, or 60 degree).

Parallel parking works well in narrow, linear spots, which are also space-efficient. But as most drivers know, it’s difficult to maneuver into parallel spaces and can cause issues with traffic.

90-degree parking (perpendicular) accommodates significantly more vehicles than angled parking (e.g. 30-degree) and works with one-way or two-way aisles. The closer to perpendicular, the less area you’ll need per vehicle in your layout, so it’s more efficient and cost-effective. However, perpendicular parking can be difficult for some drivers to maneuver and can cause visibility issues.

Parking Space Dimensions and Your Parking Lot Layout

The number of spaces you can fit in your parking layout depends in part on the dimension of each space. (Though, as we’ll discuss, there are many other elements you’ll need to include in your layout — parking spaces are just one.)

Standards for parking space dimensions vary by region, industry and even by building code. Make sure you know of any existing standards before you start your layout.

Typically, you’ll require 387 square feet per vehicle to accommodate entry, circulation, and parking spaces. Of this, standard public-use parking spaces are 9×19 feet.

However, this figure is quite general for planning and cost estimating. Knowing the type of parking spaces you’ll need and your parking configuration, you can plan your layout with more accuracy.

Laying Out Your Parking Lot Based on Setting, Weather and More

Of course, every parking lot layout is influenced by the site. You’ll need to consider the surrounding area, seasonal weather, pedestrian traffic flow, safety and more.

While great parking lot layout depends on the context, keep these general principles in mind:

  • Be a good neighbor: If your lot is surrounded by residential areas, consider how you can screen the lot with fencing, trees, hedging and earth berms around the parking perimeter.
  • Consider the environment: How can you preserve or enhance the natural environment in and around your parking lot? Avoid unnecessarily removing mature vegetation or degrading soil stability.
  • Keep sightlines clear: Think about how landscaping or landmarks (existing or planned) will impact drivers’ sightlines. For example, if you have parking islands in your lot, keep those clear of tall impediments.
  • Be prepared for the weather: When it rains, your parking lot needs excellent drainage. When it’s hot, you’ll need shade. And if you’re designing a parking lot anywhere it snows, you’ll also have to consider snowplows and snow piles. How can you accommodate plowing and snow holding areas without blocking parking spaces or the flow of traffic?

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into parking lot layout design. And we still have to consider the entryways and exit lanes.

Don’t Forget Exit and Entrance Lanes When Designing Your Parking Layout

The location of entry and exit driveways is important for safety and traffic flow.

Ideally, layout your parking lot with entrances and exits located away from busy public intersections and pedestrian crosswalks. Driveways should be kept at least three feet from obstructions such as street lights, utility poles and fire hydrants

Other factors to consider include:

  • the location of individual property lines and available street frontage
  • requirements of internal site design
  • the number and type of vehicles expected to use the driveways (including delivery and service vehicles)

You’ll also need to factor in any parking lot equipment located at the entry or exit lanes of the parking lot, as we’ll discuss below.

Different Parking Systems Need Different Parking Lot Layouts

A gated system requires concrete islands in the entry and exit lanes. In comparison, a Smart Parking Meter does not.

We’ve compiled a thorough analysis parking solutions as well as of the pros and cons of parking systems with barrier gates vs. smart parking meter systems. Take these factors into consideration when designing your parking lot layout and considering parking management systems.

You’ll also need to consider parking equipment islands.

Generally, a cement parking island is 2 x13 feet for a single direction or 2×17 feet for a centered bidirectional island. While this is a general rule, final dimensions will depend on the parking equipment selected for the project.

What Other Parking Lot Design Elements Do You Need to Make Parking User-Friendly?

Good parking lot layout also factors in ways you can help customers and pedestrians navigate the space safely. For example:

  • What lighting will you need and how will that impact the available space?
  • What striping and signage will you use to indicate regular and handicapped spaces?
  • How will you clearly mark the direction of traffic flow?
  • What visual aids will customers need to quickly locate the parking equipment?
  • What barriers will you need to keep cars safely situated in their spaces and protect property? (Consider wheelstop barriers along the front end of parking slots, a curb along the parking lot edge and barriers around parking lot equipment)

User-friendly parking lot layout includes accessibility considerations.

Factor in easy access from accessible spaces to walkways.

Don’t forget to include ramps in your parking lot layout. Curbs or stairs should, of course, be avoided on the accessible entrance route. Accessible routes should be at least three feet wide and slip-resistant.

Viewing your parking lot layout from the perspective of users will help you spot any usability issues in advance.

Smart Parking Lot Layout Increases Profits in Multiple Ways

At the top of your parking lot layout considerations is always profitability. Naturally, optimizing your parking lot layout to fit in the maximum number of parking stalls increases your potential for profits. Using space in your parking lot efficiently is one way to maximize parking revenues.

But a successful parking lot layout is also designed for usability, so your parking lot is safer, lower-maintenance, resulting in higher customer satisfaction.

A well-designed parking lot prevents accidents, frustrations around entering and exiting the lot and the time and the effort it takes your staff to resolve these issues on a daily basis.

Plus, when customers can find, pay for and exit parking faster, faster flow-through drives up your lot revenues. (Streamlining these critical moments is the guiding principle behind the design of our parking systems and equipment, too.)

Clearly, investing time in a smart parking lot layout pays off in multiple ways.

Great Parking Lot Design Isn’t Easy, But It’s Worth It

Usually, the driving question behind parking lot layout design is revenue. How can you layout the parking lot to be more profitable?

But as we’ve explained in this post, many questions have to be answered before you can know the number of parking spots your lot will accommodate.

Once you’ve completed your parking lot layout and have an idea of the number of parking stalls your lot will have, use our Parking Revenue Calculator to estimate the annual revenue your lot will generate.

Talk to Parking BOXX about Your Parking System Design

Parking lot equipment and systems are an integral part of your layout and design. We can help guide you through the most important considerations when it comes to space use, traffic flow, costs, security and customer satisfaction.

Contact us today to schedule a pressure-free, obligation-free consultation with one of our parking experts.
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