Regulations for obligatory parking areas?

Purpose of my case study in Digital Urban -course was to visualize planning regulations provided for parking places in yards. Regulations for obligatory parking areas in yards are very commonly used and are also called off-street parking requirements. I think this definition describes very well their usage and purpose.

City authorities usually demand a certain amount of parking places as a part of regulations in detailed plans. Demanded off-street parking area sets limits to quantity of total floor area in buildings, because it is obligatory to built required amount of parking space, there is other needs for yards also and building permission is bound to fulfill all regulations.

According to Donald Shoup the demand for parking is not only more complicated than planners think, but it’s also more complicated than planners can think. To set parking requirements, planners usually take instructions from elected officials, copy other cities’ parking requirements, or rely on unreliable surveys of the peak parking occupancy. For many land uses, the parking lots are bigger than the buildings they serve. There is more space for parking than for people (Shoup, 2018, p.7-8).

I used City Engine -software to model different options for building residential housing and parking in one block in Haaga. The block size is 67*90 m and area is about 6000 m2. Options are compared to Helsinki City plan as it is said that the new City Plan provides the basis for urban planning in Helsinki (City of Helsinki, 2017).

The City Plan does not clearly delineate the boundaries for land use allocation. The City Plan map consists of squares of one hectare, or 100 x 100 metres, each. Each square is marked according to its primary use. The land use of adjacent squares may also be planned by taking into consideration the primary uses of both squares. Any demarcation issues will be resolved in detailed planning (City of Helsinki, 2017).

In the City Plan, areas that are primarily residential are shown in four different shades of brown. The darker the brown, the denser the areas will become and the greater the potential amount of construction in the area. The volume of construction is expressed as block density, which is the relationship between the floor area of buildings in the block and the block’s overall area (City of Helsinki, 2017).

Area of Haaga is planned as primarily residential area with new public transport services. As a part of city boulevard plan the darkest brown areas, as planned to be most dense residential areas, are extended along streets to North Haaga and further. Despite some of these areas were overruled by the court, there is multiple areas to become densely built residential areas  in Haaga. In my study with City Engine I looked at differences between four different densities in the same block.

In figure 1 below is shown the input data and calculations for assumed demand for parking area in four different options. Calculations are based on assumption that demand would be one parking place per 135 m2 of residential floor area. This means that not every apartment has an own parking place, there can be one to three apartments per one parking place. As shown in figure 1, it was assumed that one parking place needs 20 m2 (City of Helsinki, 2014, p.23).

Figure 1. Data used in different options

The 3D -model of Haaga for visualizations was ready as input data and I constructed one block with Street drawing -tool to perform as a place to investigate differences in parking area. In figure 2 is shown the situation that there is practically no yard left after parking places have taken their part. Parking area is  illustrated in figure 2 with grey asphalt. This was carried out in City Engine by first calculating with Dashboard -tool the density of the block with planned building. It was easy to change the size of the building by changing the rules and adjust to wanted density. Size of the parking area was then calculated as mentioned above and the area was illustrated by using Shape -tool in City Engine, making it the right size and attaching a photo from asphalt over the shape.

Figure 2. A1 – densest areas

Residential building in Figure 2 has seven floors and its total floor area is 20 492 m2. It is constructed in the same way as in Kallio, or Töölö, it is not a single highrise. With this scenario was possible to show the situation where all yard is used for parking and covered with asphalt, if the assumed regulations are used.

Figure 3. A2 – block density 2.0

In Scenario A2 the block density illustrated is 2.0. Figure 3 shows one option to construct the area using Arabianranta as a reference. Residential building has five floors and total floor area is 12 171 m2. In this case there will be left some yard, and with detailed planning, this area could be convenient for residents.

Figure 4. A3 – block density 1.04

In scenario A3 residential building has two to five floors and total floor area is 6256 m2. This option gives possibility for large green area in yard, but the total floor area is much smaller, so there is not so large number of residents that have possibility to enjoy it as in previous scenarios.

Figure 5. A4 – lowest density

In Scenario A4 there is two options to use the block to built it with density under 0.4. These houses are like detached houses with one to three floors. In these yards parking is not an issue, places can be situated in suitable place and still there is place for other activities.

According to Shoup urban planners cannot say how many parking spaces every apartment building needs any more than they can say how many cars every family needs. Because the number of available parking spaces affects the number of cars a family will own, the number of cars a family owns cannot predict the number of parking spaces that planners should require. The supply of parking creates its own demand, and planners estimate the demand for free parking as the way to require supply. It’s as if planners required storage space in every residence based on their estimate of all the stuff they think people will store in the required space. Requiring every building to provide ample parking encourages everyone to buy a car (Shoup, 2018, p.11).

Helsinki City Plan report or map and legend do not include any regulations for parking. City Planning Department of Helsinki is preparing new regulations for parking in future Helsinki. Aim is that public transport would serve better and people’s habits will change. E.g. mobility as a service would fulfill everyday transportation needs in a new way and new parking solutions e.g. centralized local parking services are one option to handle the need and use places more efficiently (City of Helsinki, 2016, p. 64).

According to latest news from City Planning Department, they will change parking policy remarkably. The idea is that city would no longer set the minimum of parking places in detailed plans. Real estate developers would built as much parking as they would consider ideal for customers (City of Helsinki, 2019).

This discussion has started and new ideas will be implemented in future detailed plans. I think this is one possibility to reduce car traffic in urban areas, it forces people to find alternatives. Also when there is more users in public transport, there is more possibilities to develop it. Assumption behind this idea is that people will change their habits, e.g. start thinking mobility as a service. This is in my mind bigger issue than what planners can affect, it is political and also a question what individuals value in their everyday life and how public opinion and media welcomes it.


City of Helsinki, 2014. Helsinki Parking Policy. Available at: <> Accessed at: 18th February 2019.

City of Helsinki, 2016. Helsinki Master Plan Report. Available at: < > Accessed 20 th February 2019.

City of Helsinki, 2017. Helsinki City Plan. Available at: <> Accessed at: 18th February 2019.

City of Helsinki, 2019. Helsinki hahmottelee nykyistä joustavampia kaavamääräyksiä asuintonttien autopaikoista [blog] Available at <> Accessed 22 th February 2019.

Shoup, D (ed.), 2018. Parking and the City. Available at: <Parking and the City> Accessed 20 th February 2019.

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