Apple employees are moving into their new campus in Cupertino, California, called Apple Park, this month.
The campus is striking to see up close or in drone flyover videos – it’s a giant property that will accommodate about 14,000 employees, starring a massive circular building in the middle of a 175-acre space that will eventually be covered in trees.
But as much new office space as Apple is building for its new “spaceship” campus, it actually built more square footage at Apple Park for employees to park their cars.
This stunning factoid comes from a recent story in The Economist looking at the negative externalities associated with free parking:
For 14,000 workers, Apple is building almost 11,000 parking spaces. Many cars will be tucked under the main building, but most will cram into two enormous garages to the south. Tot up all the parking spaces and the lanes and ramps that will allow cars to reach them, and it is clear that Apple is allocating a vast area to stationary vehicles. In all, the new headquarters will contain 318,000 square metres of offices and laboratories. The car parks will occupy 325,000 square metres.
The Economist points out that Apple was required by Cupertino city law to provide ample parking when building its new headquarters. Companies building offices are required to provide a parking analysis to illustrate “enough parking is available to meet the parking requirements.”
One guide on the Cupertino website indicates that one new parking space is required for every 285 square feet of office space.
Apple has done a lot to mitigate the visual and traffic effects of all these cars. Most of Apple Park's parking will be underground, underneath the campus, aside from two massive above ground parking garages near the highway.
Apple also has a program that gives thousands of employees free rides to and from work on shuttle buses, reducing the number of cars on the road. The campus will be equipped with free bikes, and there will also be a new transit facility for easy access to buses on one corner of the project.
At least 28% of employees at Apple Park will commute in some way other than one person in one car, The Mercury News reported in February. Still, Apple's neighbors are worried about Apple Park's traffic impact.
But the site's parking may or may not have lasting effects. Apple is investing lots of resources into developing self-driving cars, along with many of its suburban Silicon Valley neighbors, including Alphabet and Tesla.
One of the promises of autonomous vehicles, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, is that when a car drives itself, instead of parking during the day, it can continue to give rides to other people, and its owner will be able to summon it "from pretty much anywhere."
It's unclear whether a car that doesn't need to park for long periods of time is part of Apple's incipient and secret automotive roadmap. And there's no real timeline for this technology - this level of autonomy might not be ready to hit our roads for decades. But if it does, and Apple plays a major part in the self-driving car revolution, what will it do with all of the parking at its headquarters?