How To Create A Parking Lot Plan

How To Create A Parking Lot Plan

When building a parking lot, it’s important to create a well-thought-out parking lot plan. Poorly designed parking lot layouts can discourage people from visiting a business, disrupt the flow of traffic, and generally cause chaos. Properly planning out a parking lot lets businesses improve their customer experience and potentially their reputation.

Your parking lot layout design should consider size, space, regulations, safety, security, and more. Here’s what goes into creating an effective parking lot design.

Steps for creating a parking lot plan

Here are the necessary steps to follow to create the best possible parking lot plan:

1. Determine the purpose of your parking lot plan

The design of your parking lot depends on why you’re creating it in the first place. So, your first step is to determine your goal. Are you adding extra parking at a movie theater or a clothing shop? Are you planning a parking lot for a new apartment complex or a hotel? Or maybe you’re revamping the existing parking area at a gas station. Each of these use cases will require a different parking lot design.

You also need to consider who will be using the parking lot. Car drivers coming to park at a restaurant will have different needs than long-haul truck drivers parking overnight at rest stops along the highway. Keep in mind the unique needs that your parking lot users will have when planning your parking lot layout.

The purpose of your lot also influences details like:

  • Size

  • Pavement thickness

  • Space angles 

A crowded parking lot that could benefit from a new parking lot layout

Size of your parking lot

The purpose of your parking lot will influence how big the lot needs to be. Many cities and towns around the United States have minimum parking laws that you’ll need to consider, so be sure to check your local laws.

Certain industries and types of establishments also have specific parking code requirements. In these cases, the square footage of the building or facility is calculated to determine how big the parking lot needs to be. Some sectors, such as hotels and movie theaters, rely on calculating the number of seats or rooms.

The recommended amount of space will also depend on the kind of corporation you’re running. A university campus, for example, will require more parking spaces than a bookstore or a restaurant. 

Pavement thickness

The purpose of your parking lot will determine the thickness of the pavement. Pavement thickness should be calculated based on the weight that the asphalt will need to carry on a daily basis.

For example, if the parking lot is supposed to hold heavy trucks, the pavement will need to be thicker.

A parking lot with diagonal rows

Space angles

Think about all the parking lots you’ve been in — they weren’t all full of 90-degree spaces; some were slanted at an angle. Choosing the right space angle is important in creating the right parking lot design.

If your parking lot will have many cars coming and going throughout the day, like at a convenience store, you should consider angled parking spaces. Angled spaces make it easy for cars to move in and out of spaces, cutting down on the average time it takes to park or depart. Spaces are often angled between 45 and 60 degrees . Using angled spaces also allows you to fit more parking spaces into a smaller area.

On the other hand, if your parking lot will see less frequent traffic, like for employee parking or overnight parking, ninety-degree spaces should work just fine. 

2. Calculate the space and size

The standard size for a parking lot will vary depending on the city, the type of business it serves, and any industry requirements. However, there are a few ways to calculate your parking lot's size.

Number of spaces

First, you need to determine the number of spaces you need. For this, you’ll have to look up the amount of parking spaces either recommended or required by your industry or check the requirements of the building codes in your area.

Size of each space

Once you’ve determined the number of spaces required for your parking plan, you can estimate the amount of land those spaces will take up. The standard size for public parking spaces in the United States is usually eight to nine feet wide and 16 to 20 feet long.

Accessible parking spaces

However, not all parking spaces are the same size or shape. For example, accessible parking spaces that provide easier access to buildings are larger than standard spaces. Accessible parking spaces need to be at least 96 inches wide and need to have an access aisle of at least 60 inches wide on either side of the space.

Creating an accessible parking lot isn’t just about space design. You’ll also need to consider things like ramps, walkways, the slope of the land in your parking lot, and where to put accessible spaces. You can consult the U.S. Access Board website to check how many accessible spaces you’ll need to include in your parking lot plan and where they’ll need to be in relation to building entrances.

Special use parking

If the parking lot layout you’re designing requires special-use parking, you should consider that separately. For example, if your parking lot has a zone for loading trucks, a drive-through lane for shoppers or customers, or a place for school buses to drop off and pick up students, this will increase the overall size of your plot plan

Many cars parked in a parking lot with angled spaces.

3. Design for a safe parking layout

The best parking lots will have well-optimized and safe layouts. According to the National Safety Council, tens of thousands of crashes happen in parking lots and garages every year, leading to hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. So, it’s essential to design your parking lot with safety in mind.

Here are some things to consider when creating a safe parking lot plan.

Safe parking space design

Choosing the right parking space design will help create a safer parking lot. 90-degree parking spaces might be the easiest to design, but you should also consider the safety benefits of other types of spaces. As we discussed above, angled spaces can make it easier (and safer) for cars to move in and out of spaces.

You should also consider how you’ll mark out each parking space, whether you’ll add padding space between the lines, and whether you’ll add sidewalks or pathways for pedestrians outside the flow of traffic.

Whatever safety elements you decide to add, it’s important to remember that drivers expect parking lots to look a certain way. So don’t go crazy and choose a wacky layout. Go for standard choices that will be predictable and safer for drivers and pedestrians. 

Parking lot layout sign


Signs are an essential safety consideration for parking lot planning. Just like roads and highways need signs to keep traffic flowing safely, parking lots need proper signage to keep drivers and pedestrians safe. Parking lots with poor signage can be unsafe and chaotic, leading to collisions, crashes, and confusion.

You should include signs that direct the flow of traffic. These include stop and yield signs, speed limit signs, wrong way and do not enter signs, and no parking signs that designate areas where no cars should park.

You should also include informational signs in your parking lot design. These include signs indicating accessible parking spaces, pedestrian crossings, entrances and exits, reserved parking, and signs detailing how to pay for parking.

Make sure all signs are easily visible to both drivers and pedestrians. You should also check with your local jurisdiction about any signs you’re required to include by law. 

Wheel stop barriers

Wheel stops (also called curb stops or parking blocks) are barriers placed at the end of parking spaces to prevent drivers from driving past the front end of a parking space. These barriers also help prevent cars from damaging the landscape or buildings near the parking lot.

Robson Forensic found that wheel stops are often tripping hazards for pedestrians, so make sure any you include are visible and properly illuminated.

Perimeter curbs

Perimeter curbs or barriers are a good way to mark the edges of your parking lot. These could be curbs with sidewalks, concrete bollards, low walls that don’t obstruct drivers’ views, or landscaped areas that visually separate your parking lot from the road or adjacent properties.

Again, make sure all perimeter barriers are visible to drivers and pedestrians. Curbs leading to pathways and sidewalks should also include accessible access points.

Proper lining and marking

Painting standard parking space lines on the pavement is essential for any parking lot layout. But you should also add lines and markings that increase safety.

The markings should help drivers and pedestrians identify where the access aisles lead, which direction traffic flows, and how to navigate to the parking lot’s entrance or exit. You can also paint stripes in pedestrian zones to indicate where people should walk.

You’ll also need to add specific paint markings to any accessible spaces. Make sure that these markings are bright and clearly visible. 


How you pave your parking lot will contribute to its safety and longevity. The asphalt should be designed with drainage in mind. Water is powerful, and if you don’t consider it in your parking lot design, it will make its own path, leading to potential flooding and cracks in the paving — both of which can be safety hazards.

Design catch basins and inlets to keep standing water away from the asphalt. You should also slope the asphalt at a minimum of 2% so water doesn’t accumulate at the edges of the pavement.

These drainage details are an essential part of your parking plan design. 

4. Consider security details for parking lot plans

Security is a crucial consideration when planning a parking lot. You want to ensure your parking lot is a secure and safe environment for anyone using it. After all, people are leaving their cars in your parking lot — they’ll want to know that they’re in safe hands.

Here are some things you can do to increase the security of your parking lot layout. 


A well-lit parking lot is a safe and secure parking lot. Poor lighting can lead to crashes if drivers can’t see where to go. Dark parking lots are also more likely to cause pedestrian trips and falls. Bad actors may take advantage of poor lighting, encouraging theft and crime.

To mitigate these issues, your light fixtures should properly cover all areas of your parking lot in the dark. They should make it easy for drivers and pedestrians to see where they’re going without creating any glare for drivers.

Ensure areas around building doors are well-lit and pedestrian pathways are bright and visible. Your parking lot's high-traffic areas, such as entrances, exits, and loading zones, should also include extra lighting to give users extra visibility. 

A parking lot designed with lights

Secure entry and exit points

If you want or need to restrict access to your parking lot, consider adding secure barriers at entrances and exits. For example, you might want to limit access to a parking lot to residents of an apartment building or employees of a certain company. In these cases, choose barriers that are opened by keycards or access codes.

If you plan to charge people to park, you can install ticket barriers that require people to take a ticket when they enter and pay at a station within the parking lot or at the barrier when they exit.

Remember that these barriers will take up space in your parking lot, so factor that space into your design. 

Make parking lot and site planning easy with MySitePlan

Creating a detailed parking lot plan will make construction easier, keep parking lot traffic flowing smoothly, and make it safer for pedestrians. Hopefully, the information in this guide will help you get started with your parking lot layout.

If you’re considering buying a parking lot as an investment, we discuss that in our blog post, Buying A Parking Lot For Business.

For more information on creating other plot plan types, MySitePlan can help. We offer residential and commercial site plans for your backyard, home, or office space. Get in touch with MySitePlan today to see how we can help.

This post was originally published on 2020-02-08 by Annie Rosellini. It was updated by Ryan Crownholm on 2024-04-16 to reflect new information.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Answers
What are the environmental considerations for parking lot designs? Environmental considerations include using permeable materials for better water management, landscaping to reduce heat islands, and possibly integrating electric vehicle charging stations.
How does the layout of a parking lot impact customer satisfaction? The layout impacts customer satisfaction by reducing traffic congestion, minimizing the risk of accidents, and ensuring easy navigation, which enhances overall visitor experience.
Are there innovative technologies that can be incorporated into parking lot designs? Yes, technologies like automated parking systems, license plate recognition for access control, and real-time parking guidance systems can be integrated to enhance usability and security.
What are the best practices for maintaining a parking lot? Best practices include regular cleaning, timely repainting of faded lines and markings, fixing potholes, ensuring proper drainage, and maintaining lighting and security systems.
How can landscaping be effectively incorporated into parking lot designs? Landscaping can be used to provide shade, reduce pavement heat, manage stormwater, and enhance the aesthetic appeal. It can include trees, shrubs, green buffers, and bio-retention areas.

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  • Ryan Crownholm