Parking minimums in Latin America

A titbit today from an excellent new parking policy guide for Latin America that was launched last week in Bogotá, Colombia.

If you follow this blog, you recently saw how extreme USA parking requirements can be, forcing excessive parking to be provided with most buildings. Long-time readers might also remember my surprise that most Asian cities also have parking minimums, albeit less extreme than in the US. An increasing number of places are totally abolishing their parking minimums, of course, including the UK, Berlin, and many city centres in many countries.

What about Latin American cities? The new parking guide provides some data.

The Y axis portrays the area (in square metres) of commercial space per required parking space in a 'typical' commercial development. So the green cities low on the graph have high parking requirements. The blue ones high on the graph have lower parking minimums.

I prefer to express parking minimums as parking spaces required per 100 square metres of floor space (in other words, the inverse of the graph above), which is how I will discuss these figures below.

By the way, the X axis is car ownership and it is there to give a simple clue to the wider transport-system context for these parking regulations. For example, if car ownership were tiny in some city, you would not be surprised by very low parking minimums.

Let's get more international perspective on these numbers. 

Mexico, Brazil and Chile are revealed to have North American-style parking requirements for their commercial buildings.  These cities require around two or four or even more parking spaces required for every 100 square metres of floor space. In Asia, Malaysia and Thailand are in this league. Such requirements steadily build automobile dependence into the landscape, new building by new building.

By contrast the cities from Colombia and Argentina have much more moderate parking minimums for commercial buildings, requiring much less than one space per 100 square metres of floor space. In Asia, similar minimums tend to apply in Hong Kong, Singapore, PRC China, Taiwan and Korea (but Japan's parking minimums are even lower than these, and more flexible in exempting small buildings). Such minimums are less of a shove towards auto-dependence obviously. But don't forget that even modest parking requirements can still inflict harm, by undermining development of small sites, raising infill development costs relative to greenfield, and by inhibiting redevelopment in old areas for example.

By the way, as I also found in Asia, the comparisons for residential parking minimums in Latin America are a completely different story. They can wait for another day.

More on the source of this data

This graphic is from page 84 of Guía Práctica Estacionamiento y Políticas de Reducción de Congestión en América Latina (Practical guide to parking and policies to reduce congestion in Latin America).

The guide has just been published by the Inter-american Development Bank (IDB) and was prepared by Colombia's Despacio and by ITDP. It is currently only in Spanish but I believe Portuguese and English versions are coming.

I was lucky enough to be at the launch event as a speaker. All the presentations from the event are HERE (some in English, some in Spanish).

Some good news from the event. Bogotá is actually proposing to abolish its parking minimums! I am looking forward to hear if the proposal goes through. I hope discussions at the seminar provided encouragement.

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  1. Interesting post as always, and good on Bogotá for having the courage to even propose the abolition of parking minimums.

    Just on a side note, you may be interested in the parking minimums for Melbourne in Australia, as it is quite topical at the moment given that the state government is currently considering an overhaul of the planning system. At the moment, the parking minimums are very generous and only serve to reinforce car-reliance in a city which already has one of the highest rates of car ownership in the world.

    The relevant part of the planning scheme may be found here:

    1. Thanks Phil!

      Any sign that the Melbourne/Victoria planning overhaul might actually repeal any minimums (for example, in the inner city at least)?

    2. Not exactly - it's more of a broad planning discussion paper at this stage. However, it does include a number of positive steps, like talking about how new housing types should become increasingly more dependent on a wide variety of transport types (and the diagram of mode share broken down by neighbourhood in Page 57). Once it gets down to the details, I hope that something like that could be achieved.

  2. Replies
    1. Yes indeed. In North America it is 'tidbit'. For the rest of us, 'titbit'. See I happen to be an Australian living in Singapore. When I remember, I set the spell checker for Australian or British English.


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