NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Downtown Nashville is made up of more than just honky-tonks and hot chicken restaurants. In fact, nearly 19% of the area is dedicated solely to car parking, according to data released by a nonprofit last week.

The data comes from the Parking Reform Network, an organization that works to inform people about the impact of parking on climate change, housing, traffic and more. The group has published 86 maps of cities across the U.S., which highlight the space used for parking lots.

On average, in U.S. cities with over 1 million people, 22% of land in the city center is used for parking. But compared to nearby cities with similar populations like Memphis and Atlanta, Nashville actually has fewer parking lots in its city center.

A map highlights designated parking spaces in downtown Nashville (Courtesy: Thomas Carpenito / Parking Reform Network)

In Memphis, which has a population of around 633,104 people, about 25% of the downtown area is made up of parking lots. Similarly, 25% of downtown Atlanta is dedicated to parking, and nearly 28% of the land in Louisville’s city center consists of parking lots.

However, Nashville is still far off from larger city centers like New York City and Chicago, where less than 10% of the space is dedicated to parking. With a population of over 8 million people, only 1% of space in New York’s core is made up of parking spaces.

The Parking Reform Network argues that less parking lots is a good thing. In most cities, the nonprofit said space dedicated to parking could be better used for housing, businesses or public gathering spots.

“This parking is often clustered around main streets, office districts, and historical cores, creating a dead zone around the city’s most valuable and walkable areas that limits residential and commercial growth. Cities with high parking have ample land that could be devoted to building walkable neighborhoods, vibrant parks, or office districts,” the group writes.

According to the Parking Reform Network, Nashville is on the right track. The City Council passed a bill in November 2022, which eliminated the minimum parking space requirements for developments in urban areas and could potentially free up more land in the future.

The bill also made the previous minimums the new parking maximums for urban developments.

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Of the cities analyzed, those who had the most space dedicated to parking were San Bernadino, California (49%); Arlington, Texas (42%); Lexington, Kentucky (38%); Wichita, Kansas (35%); and Virginia Beach (35%).

The cities with the least amount of dedicated parking spaces were New York City (1%); Washington, D.C. (3%); Chicago (4%); San Francisco (4%); and Boston (6%).

Because their analysis focuses on how land is being used, the Parking Reform Network did not include underground parking garages in their calculations. To view and compare the Parking Reform Network’s maps of all 86 cities, click here.