The (R)evolution of parking in Bogotá: Part 2 Too much of a good thing? (2000-2007)

This is the second of a guest series on parking policy in Bogotá by guest blogger, Carlosfelipe Pardo of Slow Research (site in Spanish).

The first post in this series described one of Enrique Peñalosa’s least known “revolutions” in urban and transport policy: parking. It explained that his parking policies were based on the view that public space should be for people first and foremost, and thus on-street parking should be banished (or at least limited) while off-street parking could be encouraged.

This post briefly analyzes the effects that this had on Bogotá’s parking policy after Peñalosa’s time in office ended at the end of 2000.

Private vehicles (cars) should get their own – private – space

As I described before, Peñalosa’s view was that space for parking should not altogether disappear, but rather be transferred from the public to the private sphere. As Peñalosa himself says, “cars are like shoes: why should citizens expect the city administration to give them a closet to store them when they are not used?” He argued that this should be the private sector’s role and they should charge for it.

“Parking where it belongs” in Calle 93: private space dedicated for parking and, beside it, sidewalks that had previously been occupied by free parking space

How much is too much?
However, this leaves the questions: how much parking space should the private sector provide, and should it be regulated to avoid over-supply of parking spaces?

Yes, this is almost all parking spaces! This 8-floor building in 85th Street has five floors for parking, two for its main purpose (a grocery market) and one for a terrace. This is one of the consequences that nobody expected from Bogotá’s “private only” parking policy.

In all of Bogotá’s transport policy documents, the preoccupation around parking is the adequacy of supply. All studies and documents (mainly, the Mobility Master Plan of 2005) specify that there should be more parking spaces to cater to demand, and that “studies shall be developed to establish the necessary supply to be developed”. As in many cities, the view in Bogotá has been that if cars are stored in an off-street parking location then all problems would be solved, regardless of oversupply or lack of pricing controls.

Accordingly, two main actions were established since 2000. The first was to provide a 10-year tax-exemption for property tax (‘predial’) and business tax (‘ICA’) for multi-level parking enterprises in the city. However, the structure must have only parking as its purpose, with no housing or any other business on any of the floors.

The second was for the city to build five underground parking lots, the operation of which was outsourced under concession contracts. The contracts guarantee a certain level of demand to the concessionaires so that in situations of low demand there is a subsidy. According to a parking operator in Bogotá, this subsidy amounted to around 6700 million pesos (approximately 3.5 million USD) per year as of 2010 for just those five parking facilities. In the last ten years, this has generated 54 thousand million pesos (27 million dollars) in losses for government.

One of Bogotá’s concession parking lots, built by the municipality. Each is underground, with a generous public space at ground level.

Minimum parking requirements
An untouched subject in Bogotá has been the crucial issue of parking minimums in buildings of the city. As is the case in most developing cities, Bogotá has established minimum parking spaces for each land use, loosely based on standards from the US. Internationally, such standards have been widely criticized for promoting car dependence, for being based on flimsy evidence, and for harming housing affordability, among other issues.

Barriers to sharing parking
An additional regulation that results in a problematic effect is that parking lots that are part of a building are not allowed to provide its parking service to other businesses. This is has been justified on the grounds of security (Bogotá has been host to various bombings inside parking lots throughout the last 30 years). However, it has generated paradoxical situations where, for example, a supermarket in front of a night club cannot provide its parking lot as a service to the latter, and an additional parking lot must be built for this purpose in the same area.

The first post in this series highlighted Bogotá’s success in reclaiming public realm from parked cars. This was a dramatic achievement.

However, this post has explained the flipside, which has been an overly enthusiastic effort to provide off-street parking, without enough regard to the danger of over-supplying such parking.  


  1. I think this is a fine piece and I very much like your blog Paul. I would like to propose that we reblog selected articles (always agreeing with you first) to World Streets. In this case, for example, we would reprint the first part up through the three lines that follow the headline - How much is too much? – and then give the reader a one click link to your blog. The idea is to drive more traffic to the article and the blog. We also like to prepare a short bio note and pic for each author. Are we on for this?

  2. Chris Bradshaw tells me that this post stimulated him to write a post about parking at his blog. See


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