Weirdly Interesting Why Are Some Parking Lots Arranged Diagonally And Others Are Straight?  

Stephan Roget
15.1k views 11 items

What's the logic behind parking lots? Why are some arranged diagonally, and others laid out straight? It turns out that there’s a lot more to parking lot design than simply painting lines on a sheet of asphalt. Complex decisions regarding spacing, number of spots, efficiency, and flow of traffic all go into creating the perfect place to leave cars. The science of how parking lots are arranged is fascinating.

Take a drive through any city, and you'll likely notice lots with diagonal versus straight parking spots. Why parking lots look different has a lot to do with how the lot is used. Different angles change the amount of spots available in any given lot, and can impact how quickly drivers can get in and out of spaces.

But what angle of entry is best? Should traffic be one-way or two-way? How many shopping cart corrals does one truly need? All of these choices, and more, are made by the great mathematical minds behind parking lots.

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Lots Should Never Have Conflicting Angles
Lots Should Never Have Conflic... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Why Are Some Parking Lots Arranged Diagonally And Others Are Straight?
Photo: Hubbard, Tom, 1931/via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

There are a few definitive rules to parking lot layout. Designers should never create parking spots with conflicting angles. In other words, lots shouldn't have spots where a driver would have to travel through another spot to safely enter or exit their own.

This design flaw leads to fender benders and vehicles stuck in their parking spots until other cars move.

Angled Parking Isn't Perfect
Angled Parking Isn't Perfe... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Why Are Some Parking Lots Arranged Diagonally And Others Are Straight?
Photo: blacktoppaving.ca/via Pinterest

Angled parking might sound like a no-brainer. It’s more efficient, safer, and easier to use in many ways. However, it does have drawbacks, and they’re mostly user-related. Drivers are used to perpendicular parking spaces, and driving is an activity built on routine.

any drivers use the straight, 90 degree lines of a perpendicular parking space to line up their park-job, and that’s much more difficult to do in an angled spot. Those unused to angled parking might find themselves backing out frequently to make sure they’re parked straight.

One-Way Traffic Is Safer
One-Way Traffic Is Safer is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Why Are Some Parking Lots Arranged Diagonally And Others Are Straight?
Photo: Ardfern/via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

The most important benefit to angled parking is that it promotes one-way traffic. One-way traffic is safer in general than two-way traffic, and that’s doubly true in a parking lot scenario. Having everyone moving in the same direction greatly lessens the chances of collisions and fender benders. It also ensures that no driver will be crossing over any lanes in order to enter a parking space. Vehicles travel in single-file, waiting to easily pull into an angled spot on either their left or right.

When exiting the space, drivers only need to worry about one direction of traffic. Everything gets safer in a one-way parking lot.

Two-Way Traffic Is Faster
Two-Way Traffic Is Faster is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Why Are Some Parking Lots Arranged Diagonally And Others Are Straight?
Photo: Bence Damokos/via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

One-way traffic in parking lots might be safer, but it also has its drawbacks. Having everyone travel in the same direction isn’t exactly the fastest method available, and can lead to backlogs. It also increases the distance a driver might have to travel to find a space or to exit the lot.

A gigantic parking lot, like those for shopping malls, should probably have two-way traffic for this very reason.