Update: The second post in this series is here.
Parking is missing from most accounts of Bogotá’s urban revolution
Much has been said about Enrique Peñalosa’s “urban revolution” when he was mayor of Bogotá, Colombia during 1998-2000. It is well known that he developed the world-renowned BRT system TransMilenio. It is also well known that he developed an aggressive agenda of public space recovery, sidewalk building and cycleway construction.
However, little is known about the parking revolution that his administration also started. This series of posts will describe parking achievements and decisions in that era and since then. Today’s post focuses on key parking changes under Peñalosa himself.
Public space for the people
Enrique Peñalosa’s main goal during his mandate was to generate equity in the use of public space. He saw that automobiles were taking away almost all space from pedestrians and other public space users, so he sought to recover as much space as possible for people, taking it away from cars. He also recovered space that had been illegally occupied by vendors, street hawkers, and even formal condos around the entire city.
|Photo 1: A ‘mud street’ - paved for non-motorized use but unpaved for motor vehicles! Peñalosa's philosophy meant that, if little money was available, it should be invested in sidewalks rather than roads. Photo by Carlosfelipe Pardo|
The taming of on-street parking
An even more aggressive and contested method of recovering public space was to reclaim on-street parking space. Even though many citizens were complaining about the invasion of sidewalks and public space by parked cars, it was incredibly difficult to implement such a policy. In fact, at one point Peñalosa was at risk of being impeached, primarily due to anger from shop owners along important avenues of the city. However, the administration went ahead and implemented his policy.
Peñalosa argued that parking was not something that the city should supply, but something that car drivers (or private companies like shopping malls) should provide. As he jokingly described it once:
“Does the city give me a public closet to put my shoes inside? No, then they shouldn’t give me a parking space to park my car.”
The best example of this policy in action was on Carrera 15, an avenue in Bogotá in a high income area of approximately 5 kms length. Through this avenue there are various shops and office buildings, and some residential buildings.
|Carrera 15 before Peñalosa|
However, the local construction agency (IDU) did a survey which found that 80% of the vehicles parked outside shops were actually owned by shop owners and employees! Only 20% were of spaces were serving their clients. Furthermore, it was found that in some areas there was actually an oversupply of almost three times the actual parking space use (e.g. 166 cars parked in an area that had a total of 479 parking spaces). The Mayor was emboldened and the project went ahead. The results are shown in the photo below.
|Carrera 15 after Peñalosa|
No urban project can be perfect.
Peñalosa’s on-street parking reforms were bold and effective. His main goal had been to transfer on-street parking spaces to off-street parking lots and this was successful. In line with this he also decided to offer tax incentives (discounts) to those who were interested in developing off-street parking lots. Many private companies took this opportunity to build a large number of off-street parking lots.
Unfortunately, the Mayor may have been too generous in encouraging off-street supply! In this he did not follow his own rhetoric which claimed that parking was a private matter to be paid for entirely by its private beneficiaries.
The shift away from free on-street parking to paid off-street parking was an important change for the city. However, time would present other challenges.
Look out for further posts in this Bogotá series.
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