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... 

Click here to get the full report (in Spanish) as a PDF

And here is a summary in English of the launch by ITDP with some more highlight from the report.


  1. This is great analysis. Showing the area of parking built compared to all other uses is particularly stunning. I would want to see the same graph for other cities. Presumably parking would comprise a clear majority of built space in some U.S. cities.


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