What are Park Once and Walk policies or programs?

A Park Once and Walk program encourages walking through the strategic placement and pricing of parking. These programs create a pedestrian-friendly environment through the use of policies, codes, planning and management efforts that design parking facilities (on-street and off-street, private and public) and land use so that most visitors to an area are within a comfortable walking distance of their destination(s).

A successful program starts with understanding the preferences of people when parking and walking. Most people are willing to walk limited distances — usually about two to three blocks for visitors and, for employees, somewhat farther (Smith and Butcher, 1994). Walkers prefer areas that have attractive frontages and a mix of land uses during both day and evening, that are well-lit and feel safe, and where streets are calm and easy to cross.

A number of elements contribute to a successful Park Once and Walk program:

  • Merchants, politicians, community groups and neighbors work together to develop or maintain a program.
  • Appropriate zoning and building codes, specific plans, and other tools lay the foundation for future growth and development and send a message to everyone — visitors and existing or prospective business owners — that the city or district is committed to its stated goals for the area.
  • Parking inventories and data collection are used to establish customer and employee needs (similar to short-term and long-term needs) and determine the most appropriate prices, improvements, and use of available parking.
  • Funds raised locally, such as parking revenue from on-street meters or garages or fees from local improvement districts, are retained locally.
  • A strategic parking pricing policy is developed and reviewed frequently to assess the most appropriate pricing structure.
  • Coordinate with non-auto transport modes such as local transit service, light rail, or bus stations — perhaps even pedicab services. Coordinate all policies with bicycle or pedestrian plans and facilities that connect to or are within the area.
  • Valet parking helps maximize efficient use of existing parking facilities.
  • Periodical review and update of program elements.

A community with a Park Once and Walk policy or program may realize these benefits:

  • Reduced parking requirements for new development that attracts new businesses (through thoughtful application of local parking data and ITE Parking Generation data; see www.ite.org/tripgen/index.asp).
  • More space for other attractive development opportunities by minimizing parking facilities.
  • A healthier population as more people walk.
  • Repeat business. Pedestrians are more likely to return to local businesses to shop or dine.
  • Reduced congestion and pollution related to cruising for parking in front of businesses.


Smith, M.S. and Butcher, T. A. Butcher (1994). How far should parkers have to walk? Parking, 33 (8).

For general reading, see Donald Shoup's The High Cost of Free Parking (available from the APA Store at www.planning.org), visit the Victoria Transportation Policy Institute's TDM Encyclopedia at www.vtpi.org/tdm/tdm28.htm, and these Smart Growth resources at EPA: http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/tisg.htm and