Austin's ParkScore Ranking

Status

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a non-profit agency that conducts an annual survey of parks and recreation agencies in the 100 most populated cities in the United States. This survey results in a score used to rank the participating cities' parkland use and the value of these parks departments to their local community. The ParkScore ranking helps those cities see how they compare to other communities and where there is room for improvement.
TPL utilizes the data collected from cities and their own geospatial analysis to create a ParkScore index that benchmarks park systems across five areas: access, investment, amenities, acreage, and, as of 2021, equity. Each city is then ranked from 1 to 100 by its ParkScore.
For this metric, a lower ranking is desirable, with one being the highest-ranked city, and 100 the lowest.

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Austin has consistently scored among the top half of park systems included in the survey. The new equity component added in 2021 shifted TPL’s scoring methodology. While Austin has relatively similar park access by 10-minute walk for areas with high proportions of BIPOC and lower-income, the amount of park acreage per capita is lower in these areas. The Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) acknowledges the historic injustices related to parks in the U.S. and in Austin, and it has been adding much of its new parkland to these regions since 1998. It must be noted that some of these regions in Austin have Municipal Utility Districts, which may dedicate their parkland to the District instead of the City; TPL acknowledged that this parkland was difficult to quantify in their methodology and affected the scoring.
PARD anticipates that over a thousand or more acres will be added to these regions in the coming decades, through park acquisitions and parkland dedication requirements for new development. Similarly, park facilities and amenities dedicated to other Districts or entities within Austin were discounted in the scoring. The ParkScore also does not consider park programming or usage statistics.
In May 2023, the latest scores were released, and Austin dropped two spots to 41, which is 6 spots away from the desired target of 35. The closer to a ranking of 1, the more quality park system a city has. The Department's long-term goal is to move into the top ten rankings of park systems in the ParkScore Index, eventually reaching number one.
Note: To see the underlying data for this chart, please click the button with three vertical dots and select "View Source Data."

Additional Measure Insights

PARD’s Long Range Plan for Land, Facilities and Programs, Our Parks, Our Future (adopted November 2019) compared Austin’s park system to five peer cities: Atlanta, GA, Dallas, TX, Portland, OR, San Antonio, TX, and San Diego, CA. The peer cities were selected based on characteristics such as population, size, density, and governance type. Portland and San Diego were selected as aspirational cities known for their park systems. 
In 2023, Austin scored higher than Dallas and San Antonio, but trailed San Diego, Portland, and Atlanta. Note that the table below presents each scoring area’s 1 to 100 index, where 100 is the highest possible score.
As demonstrated in the rankings, Austin is investing a relatively high amount per capita in parks, which should benefit Austin’s scoring in the other areas as development and parkland acquisitions continue to occur. This high investment figure is driven by record spending in PARD’s capital improvement program (CIP), which is in large part due to the 2018 Bond Program and fees collected through the Parkland Dedication Ordinance. Both of these sources combine to make targeted parkland acquisitions that will improve Austin’s scores in the access, acreage, and equity areas.
The Austin Parks & Recreation Department desires to be the city with the best parks system in the country.  PARD is working toward a ranking of number one. However, it is important to note that a ranking that remains the same from year to year is actually a win for PARD considering the steady increases in population that Austin experiences annually.  PARD's Planning & Development Division improves parkland every year, but the rapid influx of residents outpaces the rate at which the department can acquire and develop parkland for usage by the public.  So, a static TPL ParkScore means that Austin is balancing the cost of acquiring parkland in an expensive market with rapid population growth and limited departmental resources.

Measure Details and Definition

1) Definition:  The Austin Parks and Recreation System's ranking on the Trust for Public Land ParkScore Index. This index ranks the park systems of the 100 largest cities in the U.S. based on access, investment, amenities, acreage and equity. 
2) Calculation method: The ParkScore is calculated by the Trust for Public Land (TPL)  The areas that make up the ParkScore categories include access, investment, amenities, acreage and equity. The ParkScore Ranking is based on a comparison of 100 participating cities in the United States, and a city’s ranking is based on a composite of their raw score in each category. The higher the score, the lower the ranking number you are on the list of 100 cities. The most desirable ranking on the list is one. Currently Austin is ranked 39 out of 100.
3) Data Collection Process:  The Trust for Public Land (TPL) collects data for their analysis through a self-reported annual survey of park systems. They also perform geospatial analysis internally to calculate access metrics. The Parks and Recreation Department works internally with various work units to compile and report the requested information for the analysis. TPL publishes their findings on their ParkScore Index website annually.
4) Measure Target Calculation: The target was calculated in 2022 using the past six year's (excluding 2021, which had a major change in methodology) ParkScore and Ranking data, which suggested that the City usually scores an average of 46% with an average ranking of 40.3.
5) Frequency Measure is Reported:  Annually 

Date page was last updated: May 2023