Parking Existing Conditions

Sep 15, 2013

Existing Conditions

Parking Inventory


CMAP's data for the regional parking inventory is primarily focused on off-street facilities, but a more thorough collection of the region's on-street parking inventory is underway and will be analyzed in the context of traffic flow.

Northeastern Illinois has over 3.2 million off-street commercial and industrial parking spaces in more than 32,000 facilities. The average number of spaces at a facility is 85. O'Hare is the largest parking supplier with 28,800 spaces, and Joliet's Chicagoland Speedway has 20,800. Chicago office spaces account for 117,704, while downtown offices (including 4 neighborhoods around the Loop) number 75,335. The Loop (or Central Business District, bounded on the west and north by the Chicago River, on the east by Lake Michigan, and on the south by Roosevelt Road) has 59,188 spaces, of which 33,652 are office spaces. These numbers do not include spaces from Metra, CTA, or Pace (discussed in the following section).

Transit parking

There are nearly 95,000 parking spaces at facilities owned by Metra, Pace, and the CTA. The vast majority of these – almost 87,700 spaces – are at Metra stations. Several Metra stations have no parking and these tend to be located closer to downtown Chicago; the greatest number of parking spaces are concentrated midway between the city and the urban fringe, some 20-40 miles from the Loop. While nearly every Metra station has parking available, only 18 of 143 CTA rail stations do. These stations are almost all at the end of the ‘El' lines or along the Orange line (the system's newest line). Pace has 9 Park-and-Ride facilities, all served by at least one express bus route and often several local routes.

The chart below summarizes transit parking availability and usage in the Chicago region in lots owned and/or operated by the region's public transit agencies. For Metra and the CTA, most parking facilities have between 100 and 500 spaces, though 25 facilities have more than 1,000 spaces. A substantial portion of CTA and Metra lots are at or over capacity (and/or under-priced), though all are of different sizes (not just small lots or large lots) and are dispersed throughout the region. Pace lots are generally much smaller (80 spaces on average) than those served by rail transit.

Transit Parking in the Chicago Region


Total Spaces

Facilities w/ parking

Total facilities

Overall space usage

Median lot usage

Lot size (spaces)



























1 2007 data 2 2000 data 3 no date, utilization statistics unavailable

Source: Regional Transportation Asset Management System (RTAMS)

Existing parking strategy examples

Every community seems to have a parking problem – not enough, too much, over-priced, or under-priced. The nuances of parking problems are related to the nature of each community. Is it a commuter rail suburb? Are there many office parks? Is it a commercial hub by a highway? Many communities in the region are taking steps to confront their unique parking dilemmas.

The following examples of local endeavors to manage parking point to the need for a better regional understanding of parking policy.

  • Plainfield recently enacted a Code of Ordinances, specifying several parking strategies to manage supply. Plainfield's Downtown Parking Zone (DPZ) has different regulations for the downtown area and the area around Village Hall. In the DPZ, developers are exempt from minimum parking requirements, with the intention of preserving older buildings and creating a pedestrian-friendly environment, while improving economic competitiveness of the area. Shared parking is allowed for non-residential uses, and placement of parking lots between streets and primary buildings is discouraged.
  • Planners in Lake Forest realized that some parcels in the downtown area may be too small to effectively provide the required number of parking spaces, and decided to allow developers to pay in-lieu fees with a special use permit.
  • Suburban communities along Metra rail lines are often faced with high demand for commuter parking and consequentially long waiting lists – up to 10 years at the downtown Naperville location (Naperville Finance Department, 2009). Some suburbs do not offer permits and just allow the lots to fill on a first come, first serve basis (often filled by 7:00 am). The shortage of such a high-demand commodity as commuter parking near transit should instigate price increases, but this is an unpopular solution. The Village of Northbrook even considered auctioning prime parking spaces (2006). Current low permit prices lead some residents to hold onto scarce and valuable permits even if they do not take the train on a regular basis. An auction of permits or increases in prices for stations with long waiting lists could save some people years of waiting.
  • Kane County's Transit Opportunity Assessment Study has identified the impacts of parking on development. They have identified transit areas and transit corridors, and have policy recommendations for parking limitations by implementing fees or providing a maximum parking space allotment instead of the traditional minimum (Kane County).
  • In 2008, the City of Chicago privatized the city's 36,000 metered parking spots for an upfront payment of $1.15 billion. A private firm receives the revenue that previously had provided the City with $20 million annually – in return for maintaining and operating the system. This move has been politically controversial, and the controversy can at least partially be attributed to the dearth of understanding of the value of parking. CMAP has not evaluated the pros and cons of this public-private partnership.
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