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?


  1. Hi!

    Here's how the parking area fee works in SP and in Brazil in general: our zoning is heavily based on Floor-Area Ratios, which are often relatively low. Up until recently, parking space didn't add to the net area used to calculate FAR. Recently we've been implementing what we're calling something "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). But what the article calls the "maximum" number parking spaces is actually the amount of spots that are exempt of the paid FAR. So it's not quite as ideal as you think, but it's still a huge leap forward for Brazilians. Whatever exceeds that "maximum" is counted as built area as much as anything else. That number is not easy to calculate, but it's based on land value for that region of the city... usually multiplied by something between 0.5 and 0.8, depending on the kind of building your proposing.

    So for instance. if each square meter of land in that area costs R$ 5000, you have to pay maybe R$ 3000 (0.6) for each square meter of whatever you build there, be it parking space or not. Outside of transit corridors, you get to build one parking space per apartment (roughly) without having to pay for the area. Whatever exceeds that first parking space will cost you that much.

    I'd love to talk further about that but I don't wanna be too long here. Did I get the idea through alright? :)

    1. Thanks Rafael! Very useful. I have written a new post using your clarification. See http://www.reinventingparking.org/2014/10/sao-paulos-parking-maximums-aint.html


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