Tuesday, June 2, 2015

How much does one parking spot add to rent?

How much does one parking spot add to rent?

Parking is expensive. It costs thousands of dollars per stall to build. It occupies valuable real estate. It is ubiquitous, accompanying nearly every building built across the United States. Yet at nearly every destination, drivers don't directly pay for the parking they use. Instead the cost is hidden, bundled into the grocery bill, benefits package, and rent of every shopper, employee, and tenant.

Everyone pays the same amount for parking whether she or he walked, rode transit, carpooled, or drove alone, but rarely does anyone see that price itemized on a receipt. As a result, most people are unaware of the heavy financial burden they bear for the sake of parking. The above graphic takes a look at one area where parking adds significantly to a household's expenses: Rent.

So how much does one parking spot add to an apartment's rent? There is no single answer to that question. Construction costs are affected by local soil conditions, zoning requirements, site constraints, regional differences in construction costs, and the type of parking to be built. On the other hand, the rent needed to justify an initial capital investment varies according to local property taxes, financing costs, resident turnover and delinquency rates, et cetera. The graphic attempts to present the range covered by these variables while providing numbers that might be considered typical for structured parking in the United States. 

The effect of each parking spot on affordability is significantly higher in urban communities than suburban ones both because the land occupied by parking is more expensive in urban areas and because building structured parking is many times more costly than paving surface lots. This reality affects the ability of lower income households to live in urban areas since parking costs roughly the same to build whether an apartment is luxury grade or modest. An $18,000 spot might not have a noticeable impact on the rent of a $300,000 unit, but it would definitely be noticed by someone renting a $75,000 unit.

Even when minimum off-street parking requirements are eliminated (and on-street parking is properly managed), the practice of bundling parking with rent may persist. It is imperative that cities find a way to separate rent for cars from rent for people either by encouraging or mandating that parking be rented separately.

People should be allowed to make their own transportation choices, especially when all the other choices are more sustainable and equitable. When renters have no choice other than to pay for car storage regardless of whether they possess a car, they are not truly given that freedom. People with the means to own a car OR to live centrally but not to do both, should be allowed to choose the latter.

Cities have many reasons to encourage their citizens to live with fewer cars. Fewer cars owned and operated in a city reduces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, eases traffic and infrastructure burdens, and increases households' disposable income. Hiding parking costs in rent runs in direct opposition to those goals.

Source Links:

Carl Walker (2014) “Parking Structure Cost Outlook for 2014”

Rider Levett Bucknall “Quartery Construction Cost Report: First Quarter 2015”

Litman (2012) “VTPI Parking Cost, Pricing, and Revenue Calculator” (alternative to rule of thumb)

Also Read to compare results and assumptions:

Shoup (2014) Transport and Sustainability, Volume 5, Ch.5 “The High Cost of Minimum Parking Requirements”

VTPI (2013) Transportation Cost and Benefit Analysis II, Ch.5.4 “Parking Costs”

Portland, OR Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (2012) “Cost of Onsite Parking + Impacts on Affordability”


There are some who have argued that construction costs, whether higher or lower, have a negligible effect on rents because property owners will charge whatever the market will bear regardless of upfront costs. This might be true if one assumed that construction costs have little effect on local supply. Furthermore, any one building is unlikely to strongly affect rents in an area. A lone developer who constructs a new apartment building in a market with strong demand will not undercut existing rents simply because the new units cost less to build. Over time however things will change as long as there is available land to be redeveloped at a higher density. 

Every dollar invested in creating an apartment translates to a higher minimum rent required just to break even. If a developer does not expect a new unit will command this target rent, that potential project will not be built. If the amount of parking can be reduced or eliminated, the money saved on construction will lower the required rent to break even and make some projects viable that were not viable before. More viable projects translates to more units getting built resulting in greater competition and thus lower local rents if demand holds constant.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The video of that SUTP webinar on how to improve on-street parking management

The video of that SUTP webinar on how to improve on-street parking management
In my webinar on 8 May I urged cities to "Take On-street Parking Management Seriously".

Here below is the video (click here to go straight to the youtube version).

See the summary below if you want to jump straight to a certain topic. I spoke for 40 minutes or so, then took questions.

Our cats tried to inject some light relief at two points but mostly this is just unsexy but important stuff that no city can ignore. 

Feedback welcome as always.   

Don’t trust casual observations (you need data!) (2:26)
Good On-street parking management dramatically improves the streets (6:24)
On-street parking management eases your off-street parking dilemmas too (9:18)
Decide where to allow parking and design carefully (17:15)
Improve (and digitize) enforcement (21:46)
Smarter pricing (26:57)
Better on-street parking management is possible! (41:28)
Questions/Discussion (42:50)
Thanks again to GIZ's Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP) for this chance.

No comments

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

On-Street Parking Webinar this Friday 8 May (08:00 UTC)

On-Street Parking Webinar this Friday 8 May (08:00 UTC)
Reinventing Parking has been a little quiet lately because I have been busy on various projects. The biggest is a toolkit about on-street parking management for GIZ's Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP). It is now under review and should be out within a few months.

You can get a preview of key ideas from the toolkit this Friday by joining my SUTP-organized WEBINAR: "Reinventing Parking – How to Improve On-Street Parking Management".

CLICK HERE for more information.  Or just send a short email to milena.keuerleber at giz.de to register.

The webinar will take place at on Friday, 8 May 2015 at 08:00 UTC, which is:

  • 5:00 – 6:00 in Brasilia, Buenos Aires (UTC-3)
  • 10:00 – 11:00 in Johannesburg, Berlin (UTC+2)
  • 11:00 – 12:00 in Kiev, Istanbul, Nairobi (UTC+3)
  • 13:30 – 14:30 in Delhi (UTC+5:30)
  • 15:00 – 16:00 in Bangkok, Jakarta (UTC+7)
  • 16:00 – 17:00 in Beijing, Manila, Singapore (UTC+8).

I plan to talk for about 30 or 40 minutes, followed by some open discussion. Do join us!

On-street parking management is one of those seemingly mundane but vital things that all cities need to do well but which most fail at. As I have said before, it is the "unglamorous secret" to all parking success.

Some cities that improved their on-street parking management

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"Less parking, more city": short animated video from ITDP Mexico

"Less parking, more city": short animated video from ITDP Mexico
Parking revolutionary Prof. Donald Shoup has announced his retirement from full-time academia, prompting various glowing tributes, such as this, this and this. I won't add to them today.

But today's post includes evidence of Shoup's international influence.

The folks at ITDP Mexico (who include Reinventing Parking author, Andrés Sañudo) have released a short animated video to complement the report.

And Donald Shoup's epic intellectual battle against minimum parking requirements has clearly influenced their work.

The video, "Less parking, more city" (Menos cajones más ciudad), is relevant almost everywhere, not just to Mexico.  It is in Spanish with English subtitles.

It is only 2 minutes 49 seconds long. So take a look right now and feel inspired.

To learn more about ITDP Mexico's parking work, see here and here (in English) and here (in Spanish).


No comments

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Parking in TODs (part 2): webinar slides

Parking in TODs (part 2): webinar slides
It is more than a year since part 1. How embarrassing.

To resume my Parking and TOD series, here is a presentation from my July webinar with Pawan Mulukutla of Embarq India.

I hope you find it thought provoking! It was aimed at an India-based audience but it includes arguments, frameworks and examples that are relevant to every city.

The slides are a mix of mine and Embarq's. Thanks to the Embarq India team for organizing the webinar (my first!).

If you can't see the Slideshare slideshow above and you want to, please get in touch and I will send you a pdf.

Click here for more on Embarq's work on Transit Oriented Development in India. 

During the webinar we posed these "poll questions" to the audience.
  1. Should reforms to make real TOD much easier to develop be a high priority for India's cities?
  2. Improved ON-street parking management is needed to enable reform of OFF-street parking regulations in India’s cities. Do you believe local authorities in India can dramatically improve their management of on-street parking?
  3. São Paulo’s new master plan eliminates parking minimums citywide and imposes parking maximums within the TOD zone along transit corridors (one space per residential unit). If developers want to build more, they will be charged an extra fee per parking space in excess of the maximum (like a ‘deficiency charge’ in reverse). Would you support such a maximum along with an excess parking fee for TOD zones in India? 
  4. For a place like Ghatkopar TOD Zone, would you support a cap on parking supply?   (so that the net number of car parking spaces is fixed at the existing number or less)
What do you think?

No comments

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Mexico City’s Required Parking Glut Part II

Mexico City’s Required Parking Glut Part II
In my previous post, Mexico City’s Required Parking Glut Part I, I reached three main conclusions about the city’s parking minimum approach:
  1. Parking is the land use growing at the fastest rate.
  2. Most real estate projects in the city provide an amount of parking close to the legal requirement.
  3. There is no relation between the amount of parking built and the distance to a mass transit station, since the minimum is the same citywide and developers provide as close to the minimum as possible.
Based on data on parking in 251 real estate projects from 2009 to 2013, Part I ended with the phrase “this suggests that developers want to provide less parking than they are required to”.

In other words: this suggests that demand for parking is lower than the minimum requirement. 

Let me explain.

Look at Figure 1 below. By making it illegal to build less parking than the minimum, the law makes it impossible for us to see all of what could be happening below that value (on the left side).

Figure 1. Actual parking (as % above the minimum required) built with the 251 developments

Imagine that the minimum is abolished. The distribution above should converge to a normal distribution with a shape that resembles a bell (Gaussian bell). The highest point of the bell is the expected value of the variable, in this case the market demand for parking.

We are now in the position to evaluate three possibilities about the relation between the parking minimum regulation and the market demand for parking:

Possibility #1. Market parking demand equals the regulation

If this is true the bell curve would have a similar shape to the figure above, where the highest point is exactly where the minimum is. So, the data shown does not automatically refute this possibility.

But is it really plausible?

We know that the regulation is 30 years old. And it was created using the usual “rigorous” process of copying other cities’ parking requirements.

Is it possible that by an amazing coincidence, the regulation had the good fortune of precisely predicting parking demand 30 years later? If so, the planners may deserve a Nobel Prize in Economics for predicting the demand for parking so well three decades in advance.

That seems an improbable coincidence of too many factors.

Possibility #2. Market parking demand is higher than the regulation

We can easily reject this possibility with the following argument.

The only limitations on building more parking than the amount required are the market and the physical and financial realities of each site. There are no legal impediments to providing more parking, such as parking maximums and/or parking caps per zone. The amount of parking is only limited by the budget and expected profit of the project.

So if this possibility is true and the demand for parking is significantly higher than the minimum, then we would expect the highest point of the bell to be further to the right on our graph (as shown in Figure 2 below).

Figure 2. How parking distribution would look if demand was higher than the minimum

Clearly, the data on parking supply is not consistent with possibility #2.

Possibility #3  The parking minimum exceeds the demand for parking

We are left with this third possibility. The minimum parking requirement must exceed the demand for parking. The peak of the bell curve is probably well below the current minimum.

In the absence of the parking minimum, many projects would build less parking.

Retail is the exception

Retail is the lonely exception to the comments above. Retail has a significantly higher observed percentage of parking spaces above the minimum compared with the rest of the projects in the study (see Figure 3 below).

Retail (big-box) projects added 22.4% more parking than required on average, while in general it was 10.4%. Mixed use developments provided 7.6% above the minimum when housing was part of the equation and 5.6% when there was no housing in the mixed use development.

Figure 3. Percentage of parking above the minimum per land use

It seems that retail construction is the only case with a strong desire to provide more parking than required by the regulation. These projects are malls, characterized by their automobile oriented design that requires large sites.

However, less parking is built when retail has a smaller scale (human oriented design) and when it forms part of a mixed use development.

We see two main reasons for these retail parking supply patterns:

  1. Large retails seeks to provide enough parking for peak demand days of the year (such as the Christmas season) amounting to no more than 30 days of the year, even if it stays underutilized the rest of the calendar. 
  2. Retail developments in Mexico City gain revenue from priced parking in the retail parking garages. 

It is also said that anchor stores require 50 to 100% more spots than the law as a condition to their leasing contracts in some areas.

Extra parking helps us to understand why retail projects use a lower percentage of their zoning rights than the rest. Retail projects develop only 68.8% of their rights on average, when the overall average is 81.9%. Financial, land, underground and space resources in a project that are devoted to parking cannot be used for the primary use of the site.


Minimum parking requirements that exceed parking demand impose additional costs on development. This undermines density and increases the living expenses of the whole population, car owners or not. This amounts to a subsidy for driving in the form of cheap ample parking that will bring more congestion in the future. Contrary to the claimed rationale, required parking in no way mitigates the urban impacts of real estate development.

Instead of excessive parking minimums, the city should encourage new urban instruments such as parking maximums and taxes to capture some of the money invested in parking and redirect it to better transit, cyclist and pedestrian infrastructure.

For example, 1.2 million square meters of new offices are expected in the city within the next 3 years. Under the regulation (1 parking space for every 30 square meters), 40,000 new parking spaces are mandated with a conservatively estimated construction cost of 500 million USD. Is it a “social benefit” to encourage 40,000 more cars to commute every day through the principal corridors of the city?

With that money the city could build 70 km of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and move more than 600,000 commuters instead of 40,000. Or we could add 50 km of complete streets (with BRT included), 140,000 publicly shared bikes, more than 8 million square meters of high quality sidewalks or more than 1,000 km of cycle lanes. Such options, not mandated parking, would provide true mitigation of real estate development.

ITDP will soon publish the English version of the report Menos Cajones, Más Ciudad (Less Parking, More City).

No comments

Thursday, October 30, 2014

We need clearer thinking on key parking policy alternatives. Here is help.

We need clearer thinking on key parking policy alternatives. Here is help.

Parking policy can be confusing.

North American parking experts Todd Litman and Donald Shoup both urge a shift away from the standard practice of relying on minimum parking requirements set at cautiously high levels. Therefore, many folks assume that their respective 'new paradigms’ are similar. In reality, most of their central suggestions and their key assumptions are strikingly different! (as explained below)

There are many similar cases of confusion over parking policy options around the world. Parking policy debate is too often muddled!

We need a clearer picture of the key municipal parking policy alternatives and of the different reform agendas

To begin, consider the diagram below and focus first on the two questions in red at the top and on the right.

These define three paradigms (three of the four boxes at the 'back' of the diagram): Conventional Site-Focused; Area Management; and Responsive.

Then a third question, along the top-left diagonal, defines further sub-categories along a third dimension: attitudes to parking supply.

This might seem puzzling at first but I argue that this scheme captures most parking policy diversity. Even more importantly, it also captures the thinking behind such diversity.

Some examples:

Parking policy in classic auto-oriented suburbia (with conventional site-focused and seeking to ensure plentiful supply)
contrasts with that of Downtown Santa Monica near LA (with area management and roughly matching supply to demand)
City of London skyline
and contrasts even more with policy in central London (area management with supply deliberately limited)
Seattle - Chinatown gate 11
or Seattle's Chinatown (similar to Santa Monica except with more effort to foster responsiveness in prices, demand and supply)
or Japan's cities (on paper, seemingly site-focused, but in actual practice amazingly responsive, with much parking on a commercial basis with market prices and supply responding to demand via price signals).

Regular readers might remember my earlier efforts to explain these issues.

I claimed that conventional suburban parking policy has several rivals, not just one.

I highlighted the contrasting assumptions of these different approaches, which 'frame' parking itself in different ways. I searched for useful analogies to get this message across.

I talked about three flavours of parking policy. And I claimed that we can get three main paradigms of parking policy from two key questions.

I have now developed these ideas much further in a new paper:

“A Parking Policy Typology for Clearer Thinking on Parking Reform” in the International Journal of Urban Studies, 2014.   
here is the journal's page for the properly formatted and copy-edited final version of the paper (paywalled sorry):  http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/12265934.2014.927740.  

Here is a more detailed version of the graphic above

It sums up the new way to categorize parking policy approaches that I propose in the paper. This version also portrays three parking reform agendas and provides more detail on the policies associated with specific positions in the scheme.

As mentioned above, the three key questions are in red. The two questions at top and right define three main paradigms (shown in red-brown all-caps). They are: the conventional site focused, area management and responsive approaches.  And each main paradigm has different varieties depending on the attitude to parking supply (which is the third dimension in the typology).

Reform thrusts

The scheme suggests three key thrusts of parking reform (blue arrows) along each dimension (and usually in the direction indicated for those of us who are seeking to ease the grip of car dependence and car dependent assumptions in planning).

This brings us back to the contrast between Litman and Shoup.

Most of Todd Litman's parking policy suggestions involve two of these thrusts:
  1. reforms to shift backwards along the supply-attitudes dimension by reducing oversupply (or to even limit supply) while improving management so modest supply causes few problems;
  2. reforms to shift leftwards from the site-focused approaches towards an emphasis on shared and public parking, which requires better on-street management but also opens up many more parking management policy opportunities. 
Donald Shoup and the Shoupistas focus especially on:
  • fostering market responsiveness (upwards on the diagram), by abolishing parking requirements (deregulating supply) and by having demand-responsive pricing, while also improving management and sweetening the deal for relevant stakeholders to make this politically feasible. 

Specific positions on the diagram explained in more detail

The small black writing in the detailed diagram provides brief explanations of the parking policies that correspond to each position in the scheme.  You will probably need to click the image and enlarge to read them.

  • Parking policies in the suburbs of most automobile dependent metro areas, with their reliance on excessive parking minimums, are at the extreme front and lower right on the diagram.
  • Places taking steps to slightly moderate the level of their parking minimums (right-sizing the requirements) are a little further back along the supply-attitudes dimension but still in the conventional site-focused lower-right section.
  • A district that allows fees-in-lieu of required parking (pdf) but which still aims to ensure plentiful public parking that is free-of-charge is still at the extreme front of the supply-attitudes dimension but this time at the lower left position. Despite plentiful free parking supply, this is a case of area management, with an emphasis on public and shared parking.
  • Many town centres adopt the approach above, focusing more on public rather than private on-site parking, but with a little less emphasis on plentiful supply. This often spurs them to start pricing and managing their parking more aggressively. Downtown Santa Monica is an example. On the diagram, it sits a little further back along the supply-attitudes dimension and still within the lower-left area management section.
  • Busy districts that actively restrict parking supply, such as central London, central Seoul, central San Francisco or central Sydney, are at the back and left on the diagram. As shown, such places vary in the extent to which they enable market responsiveness.
  • The Shoupista approach emphasises market responsiveness and is in the upper left section, as is my Adaptive Parking agenda and the interesting case of Japanese cities. Seattle's Chinatown is an example of a place that has been trying parts of the Shoupista agenda.

If any of this intrigues or puzzles you, then please click through to the paper for details.

Please share if it seems useful! 

And feel free to ask questions or give your views on this in the comments.


Monday, October 27, 2014

São Paulo's parking "maximums" ain't maximums

São Paulo's parking "maximums" ain't maximums
In "São Paulo's parking U-turn" I reported that:
Within special transit corridor zones, São Paulo is replacing the old parking minimums with maximums.
The maximums have an interesting feature: they are flexible!
A developer CAN choose to provide more parking than the maximum. But doing so will require payment of a fee.
However, Rafael Lemieszek from São Paulo commented on the post with a helpful clarification. Thanks! (and apologies that I didn't notice the comment at first)

He points out that "maximums" is not quite the right word. However, with no concise alternative, I can see why reports on the issue decided to use it.

The description above is OK for a rough idea but parking policy wonks may want a deeper understanding. 

"Greater São Paulo at night" by NASA/Paolo Nespoli - Flickr.Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Here are Rafael's key points:
Up until recently, parking space didn't add to the net area used to calculate FAR. [...]
But what the article calls the "maximum" number [of] parking spaces is actually the amount of spots that are exempt of the paid FAR. [...] Whatever exceeds that "maximum" is counted as built area as much as anything else. 
Rafael also gives some important context on how FAR is now being used in São Paulo zoning:
Recently we've been implementing what we're calling [...] "paid allowance for building rights" - so the basic FAR has been set to 1 in most of the city and you can reach up to a maximum FAR in certain areas (up to 4 around transit corridors in SP).

Confused? Let me recap: 

  1. Previously, even if developers built more parking than the parking minimums required, none of that parking counted towards the floor area total used in calculating the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) (called FSI in some places). 
  2. Now, for the first time, there is a limit on how much parking is exempt from counting as floor area. 
  3. Developers can still build parking beyond this limit, but it will count as floor area. 
  4. This extra parking attracts a fee ("paid allowance for building rights"), just like any kind of built area in excess of the basic FAR for the relevant area. 

This is actually similar to the rule in Singapore. 

However, in Singapore it is simply the minimum requirement that defines the limit on how much parking is exempt from counting as floor area.

As I explained in a previous post "Deliberate parking crunch in Singapore's city centre?", Singapore real-estate developers
have good reason to view the parking standards as maximums and not just as minimums. Why? Because only the required parking is exempted from counting as part of their allowed floor area (gross floor area, GFA) under the development controls (zoning). This means that if they build any more parking over and above the minimum requirements, they will have to reduce something else. And those ‘something elses’ (like shops, offices, hotel rooms, etc) earn much more revenue than parking (at least for now). So developers in Singapore apparently don't usually build any more than the minimum amount of parking.
By contrast, from Rafael's explanation, in São Paulo the amount of parking that is exempt from counting as floor area might be different from the minimum requirement. Presumably the exempt-parking limit is higher than the minimum parking requirement.

How important is exempting parking from floor area calculations?

I have often wondered about this.

How common is limiting the parking that is exempt from counting as floor area (like in São Paulo and Singapore)?

I suspect that this seemingly esoteric choice may be quite powerful. I think it may deserve greater attention. And it needs a name, to give us a concise way of talking about it. "Parking floor-area exemptions"? Hmm.

If you have read this whole post, you are probably quite a parking policy wonk! So, what do you think?

So thanks again, Rafael, for the detailed clarification.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mexico City’s Required Parking Glut

Mexico City’s Required Parking Glut
Recently, ITDP Mexico conducted an extensive analysis of parking management in Mexico City. I coordinated this work. The report is only in Spanish for now.

We started with a journey through all the legal instruments that influence parking in the city. These are mainly driven by strict minimum requirements

Then we evaluated the urban, economic, mobility and social impacts of the regulations. This included analyzing parking in 251 real estate projects from 2009 to 2013. 

Here’s what we found

Parking policy in Mexico City has until now been based on the idea that cheap and abundant parking is the way to tackle congestion. But this only incentivizes car-use and automobile oriented development. 

The good news is that parking regulations will soon be reviewed under new federal and local development programs. A key aim of this review will be reducing or eliminating minimum parking requirements. This recognizes that the current regulations are based on false premises: that parking supply should expand to meet demand and that off-street parking mitigates the impacts of real estate developments.

Any such reform will have to confront the popular view that there is not enough parking across the city. The existing approach is based on such a view.

But it is difficult to imagine how the incentives for parking supply could be any stronger. 

Powerful parking supply incentives

First, publicly accessible parking is permitted in  almost any zoning and with weak quality standards. As a result, most of the public parking in Mexico City is on empty land lots. These are more a case of land speculation than a mobility solution.

Second, requiring every new development to include a minimum amount of vehicle storage has guaranteed the automatic and rapid growth of supply. 

According to analysis of the 251 real estate projects from 2009 to 2013, parking is the land use that has been growing fastest (see Figure 1). This is the obvious result when adding any other land use requires the provision of abundant parking but adding parking does not require other land uses. 

It is illegal to build housing units without parking even if there is a potential market of citizens who want to live without a car. Our regulations seem to put more importance on accommodating cars than housing citizens.

Figure 1. Floor area of various uses added each year.

Third,  most of the on-street parking spaces are given away for free and off-street parking fees are actually capped. 

So, in practice the city aims for an oversupply of parking with  low prices for users. This is obviously inconsistent with the stated official vision of a more dense, compact, lively and resilient city with less dependence on private mobility. 

We have been feeding the public perception of a parking deficit. What is lacking is an effective set of  instruments for efficient parking management.

Let’s take a closer look at the 251 projects.

In the projects analysed more than 16 million m2 of floor space was added in total. Of this, 42% was  parking, amounting to  more than 250,000 spaces. 

If Mexico City keeps on this way we will have abundant parking but much less city. 

How much parking do developers actually build?

The data show that developers are basically building the exact amount of parking that was required to them. This is a strong signal that many actually want to build less. 

Comparing the amount of parking spaces in the projects with the minimum, we see that on average they include only 10.4% more spaces than the requirement (Figure 2). In fact, parking supply in 67.7% of the developments fell between the minimum required and 10% more than that level. This is equivalent to building exactly the minimum. In practice, it is difficult to build exactly the required amount given the dimensions of each project.

Figure 2.  Actual parking (as a % above the minimum required) built with the 251 developments.

There is no connection between parking supply and mass transit.

There is no relation between the amount of parking above the minimums and their distance from mass transit (Figure 3). Furthermore, the parking requirements are actually uniform across the city, regardless of public transit coverage. So there must also be no correlation between parking and mass transit access. 

Figure 3.  Parking provision (as a % above the minimum) versus distance from mass transit 

We have seen that most developments provide the minimum amount of parking that is feasible. As I said above, this suggests that developers want to provide less parking than they are required to

More on that issue in a follow-up post... 
1 comment

Saturday, August 23, 2014

São Paulo's parking U-turn

São Paulo's parking U-turn
I live almost as far from Brazil as it is possible to be (in Singapore).

But I am intrigued by the parking reforms in São Paulo's new strategic master plan. 

The plan was approved at the end of June and released on 31 July. See herehere, here, here and here for reports in English.  Explanations of the key policy thrusts (in Portuguese) are here.

There are two key parking steps in the plan. Both are explained below. 

They are:
"Sao Paulo Congonhas 2" by Mariordo - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The City of São Paulo is eliminating parking minimums citywide.

If I understand the text correctly (via google translate), the abolition of parking minimums applies to all land uses.


This is a big deal for a city that had extremely high parking minimums

Commercial development, for example, previously required one parking space for every 45 square metres or so of floor space.

High parking minimums in São Paulo promote solo car driving and car ownership.

Excessive minimums also undermine workplace TDM ('corporate mobility programs'), as reported recently in a World Bank study.
For most employees who can afford cars, the access to free or subsidized parking more or less trumps all other factors in commuting choices. ...
We found that the availability and cost of parking depends on a complex eco-system – developers, property managers, and employers – who all have their own interests, options and solutions. ...
Ultimately we found that once parking was built and available – the interests and incentives to use it seemed to outweigh the potential benefits of any other alternative. 
What does "Citywide" actually mean?

When reports on this say the minimiums have been abolished 'citywide' they actually mean across the City of São Paulo.

The City has about 11 million residents. It is at the heart of the São Paulo metropolitan area with 39 municipalities and about 20 million people. The master plan is for the City not the wider region.

Nevertheless, I say São Paulo should now be counted among  parking minimum abolitionists!

"Greater São Paulo at night" by NASA/Paolo Nespoli - Flickr. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Maximums along transit corridors

Within special transit corridor zones, São Paulo is replacing the old parking minimums with maximums.

[Update: a new post provides a clarification of the use of the word 'maximums' here]

The maximums seem to be set at:
  • one parking space per residential unit
  • one parking space per 70 square metres of floor space for non-residential.
[Again, this is my understanding, with the help of google translate. I hope I am reading the plan text correctly!]

The parking maximums reform extends on a pilot that began in certain areas in 2003.

The maximums have an interesting feature: they are flexible!

A developer CAN choose to provide more parking than the maximum. But doing so will require payment of a fee.


This turns on its head the more familiar idea of 'payments in lieu of parking'. These are called 'deficiency charges' in some countries, including Singapore.

But in São Paulo developers will now have to pay for parking excess, not parking deficiency.

I would love to learn more about this aspect of the plan!

Can anyone out there enlighten us? Can you point to an explanation? Does anyone know the level of these fees?

Part of a transit-oriented corridor strategy

The parking maximums are part of a prominent effort in the plan to transform the urban fabric along transit corridors. A key aim is to increase population densities.

But the plan also seeks to make these corridors truly transit-oriented and not merely transit-adjacent.

An illustration of the plans for the transit zones (via http://gestaourbana.prefeitura.sp.gov.br/um-plano-para-orientar-o-crescimento-da-cidade-nas-proximidades-do-transporte-publico/)

For example, the plan attacks São Paulo's high-rise, low-density, street-life killing, gated towers.

Desirable areas in  São Paulo have numerous high-rise gated condomium developments. Most of these have huge housing units (often occupying entire floors) and plentiful parking.

Therefore the city's high-rise housing does not translate to density of people.

So, along with the parking maximums, the plan includes efforts to:

A wave of sustainable transport innovation in São Paulo? 

It looks like this is a city to watch for many more urban transport innovations.

MobiLab, the Mobility Laboratory of the City of São Paulo, has just been recognized by an international sustainable mobility entrepreneurship prize (MobiPrize).
Through the MobiLab, the municipal Department of Transport (SMT) of São Paulo has created a framework geared to catalyzing future and ongoing growth in New Mobility enterprise, industry, and economic development.
They have taken bold decisions required to change institutional culture (proprietary data; formal procurement processes) and opened data to developers, which has advanced user information and public participation platforms (e.g. for bikelane planning).
Also by building innovative cross-sectoral partnerships (academia and industry) they have garnered support for their Hackathons for which the city got ample participation. 

The full text of the plan is here (in Portuguese).

By the way, the full text of the plan above comes via the Cidade Aberta (Open City) website maintained by the office of city councillor Nabil Bonduki.

Nabil Bonduki (image via Cidade Aberta)
Bonduki has been a key figure pushing the reformist plan through the city council.

What can your city learn from São Paulo's parking reforms?

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