Meaning of access=private on amenity=parking vs highway=service

Apartment complexes in suburban areas often have a small network of service roads leading from the public street to the different buildings and parking lots for residents and their guests. I will typically tag any such parking lot with access=private since they are not for the general public. However I typically will not tag the service roads with access=private unless there is an explicit sign disallowing the general public from passing through. Something like “residents only”, “keep out”, “no trespassing” or similar.

This has always seemed intuitively sensible to me, but recently I’ve started to wonder if there is a contradiction when a service road that is not tagged access=private (defaulting to access=yes) passes through a parking area that is tagged access=private. Is the access tag on the area conflicting with the access tag on the way? Or is this perfectly clear because access=* on the parking area specifies who is allowed to park, while access=* on the service road specifies who is able to simply pass through, but not park?

It’s depending on the situation. If parking is forbidden for none-residents, amenity=parking should have the access=private, if it’s forbidden as well to use the service road, then the service-road should get an access=private as well. No router will check, whether any road will cross a private “area”.

In the end: The access of the parking will influence whether you see the parking in the list of your POI and the access on the highway will influence, whether the router can use the road.


Agreed. Additionally one can consider what the service roads are used for. If they lead to the private parking areas and nowhere else I would not hesitate to tag them as private also. If they give also access to some building entrances or mailboxes of the residents I would not do so and in such cases I do not see a conflict when such a “non private” service road is passing through a private parking space.

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access=destination might be a better fit for those roads if there is no barrier. Means like this road is allowed to be on the last sections or the first sections of your route, but not somewhere in between.


I mark any ways leading to parking lots and residential buildings
as access=resident_only. Other roads and parking within a complex should be set to access=private since they lead to service area. These buildings and area are for employees and outside service people trained to handle utilities and otherwise considered off limits to residents.

the issue here is that we use access=* on parkings to say who can park there, and it may imply walking/driving on the area as well, or not. You cannot tell (well, maybe you can, e.g. when there is a fence and a gate mapped and you are analyzing the situation more thoroughly)

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This is an important point in suburban areas in the U.S. There are plenty of parking lots that one may cross to get to a residence or other business that’s unaffiliated with the parking lot. Parking lots usually have signs explicitly reserving parking for customers but not restricting passers-by in any way.


Unfortunately, some mappers who specialize in mapping driveways and parking aisles systematically miss this distinction, tagging the parking aisles themselves as access=customers. I move these erroneous tags to the surrounding amenity=parking area whenever I spot them.

I’m unfamiliar with this tag and see no occurrences of it currently in the database. However, there is a similar access=private private=residents combination that clarifies who may use the private-access road.


Thanks for the input, everyone. Obviously there are many different situations where various different access tags are appropriate. It sounds like access=private on a parking area should not conflict with (implied) access=yes on service road passing through it as the they are referring to different ways of using each feature–passing through vs parking a vehicle. This is what I had thought, but just wanted to double check.


Generally speaking, if it’s not public but you can enter it without asking first, then it’s permissive, not private.


The difference between permissive, destination and private is like:

permissive: Everyone can enter, stay and leave, as long as the owner not send you away.
destination: Everyone can enter and leave if want to reach a destination in that area
private: similar like permissive, but need approval first