Parking spaces and access aisles

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Question: What is the correct design for the access aisle? The new ADA regulations seem to have changed everything related to access aisle widths.
—Caleb, North Carolina

A: The short answer: For VAN parking, the universal parking space design is now designated in the 2010 ADA, which is 132 inches (11 feet) wide for parking with the 60-inch (5-foot) access aisle — this has always been allowed (I will explain below). Minimum car parking space dimensions remain the same.

An important notation that most people missed in the 1990/94 ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) was the appendix, or advisory, section (see caption). In this section, the universal design approach is listed as a legitimate alternate approach for addressing the larger van parking space while keeping the smaller 60-inch-wide access aisle that accompanies the smaller parking spaces for cars. NOTE: In the ADAAG appendix, universal design dimensions are applied to all spaces with this configuration.

The 2010 ADA standards now use the universal design dimensions of 132 inches as the width for van parking spaces. However, car parking spaces remain at 96 inches (8 feet) wide. Access aisles are 60 inches. To better understand the difference in the arrangement of the parking spaces, please review the caption and images at the end of this article. You can use them as your visual guidelines.

Before you panic over your van spaces, there is an exception written into the 2010 standards (502.2 Vehicle Spaces) that still allows the original 1990/1994 ADAAG standards: “Van parking spaces shall be permitted to be 96 inches (2,440 mm) wide minimum where the access aisle is 96 inches (2,440 mm) wide minimum.” (See image below.) This actually gives you the same total space as a 132/60 universal design: 192 inches.

Figure 502.2 Vehicle Parking Spaces


Developing your “best practice” design

When designing accessible parking spaces, here are a couple of things to consider:

  • My Chevrolet Tahoe’s lift is located on the driver’s side with a parallel approach in which the door open is about 48 inches wide. However, there are new vehicles out there with the perpendicular ramp approach from the driver’s side that extends 48 inches outward from the vehicle, so they need the large van designed parking and access aisle as shown in the included graphics. Examples are the Chrysler PT Cruiser and the Honda Element. My regret is that 2010 regulations do not use the full approach of the universal design — which is the 132-inch width for ALL accessible parking spaces, and 60-inch-width access aisle. 
  • Based on my personal experiences, I don’t endorse shared access aisles for angled parking spaces, since a person really shouldn’t have to change their vehicle direction to pull into the angled parking space — but would often need to do just that to ensure the access aisle is on the appropriate side. Remember: When you have to approach an angled parking space from the opposite direction, you are going against traffic.

I hope this helps. I will continue to address parking for the next several months, since I see endless problems in this area and plan to break down each issue separately. PW


From ADAAG 1990/1994 Appendix Note (Advisory section) A4.6.3 Parking Spaces:
“‘Universal’ Parking Space Design. An alternative to the provision of a percentage of spaces with a wide aisle, and the associated need to include additional signage, is the use of what has been called the ‘universal’ parking space design. Under this design, all accessible spaces are 132 in (3350 mm) wide with a 60 in (1525 mm) access aisle (see Fig. A5(b)). One advantage to this design is that no additional signage is needed because all spaces can accommodate a van with a side-mounted lift or ramp. Also, there is no competition between cars and vans for spaces since all spaces can accommodate either. Furthermore, the wider space permits vehicles to park to one side or the other within the 132 in (3350 mm) space to allow persons to exit and enter the vehicle on either the driver or passenger side, although, in some cases, this would require exiting or entering without a marked access aisle.”

 Comment on this article

Report this as offensive August 06, 2012

I have often wondered just where the required length of a "parking" space is stated.

Posted By: Forrest | Time: 6:53:00.623 PM



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About the Blogger

Michele Ohmes

thumbnail image Michele S. Ohmes is an Americans with Disabilities Act specialist and wheelchair user who works with public works departments, facility managers, and contractors. Her design manual — ADA and Accessibility: Let's Get Practical — is available on CD-ROM through the American Public Works Association's Web site. Author's note: Michele & Associates does not render legal advice and has no enforcement authority regarding the ADA or other federal disability-rights legislation.