Colombia's cities have some puzzling parking policy twistsCarlos Felipe Pardo and I had a nerdy parking policy conversation as we tried to wrap our minds around some of the surprising features of parking in Colombia.
We made some progress and I enjoyed our conversation. It should also be useful for parking nerds everywhere!
In the article below, I'll also point out how we remain a little puzzled here and there. So, if you know Colombia and its parking maybe you can set us straight on one of the puzzles. If so, please leave a comment.
How to digest this:
- READ the article below, which summarizes key points from our conversation.
- LISTEN with the player above.
- There is a Youtube version (also embedded below).
- You can read a full transcript at the end of this post. My Patreon patrons can download a nicely formatted version.
- If you are a podcast listener, subscribe (it's free) to the audio podcast! (search for 'Reinventing Parking' in your podcast player app or you can click the symbol that looks like a wifi icon in the player above).
Why I spoke with CarlosCarlos Felipe Pardo is executive director of the non-profit organization, Despacio, in Bogotá, Colombia. He was also a recent guest on my other podcast, Reinventing Transport, to talk about the idea of slowness in urban transport.
|Training new parking nerds in Pereira, 2017. |
Carlos is standing in the background.
But Carlos also knows parking and has been a guest blogger on this site in the past (here and here).
Carlos and I worked together last year in three cities in Colombia (under a project for GIZ).
With great help from officials in each city and from Carolin Capone and Patricia Patricia Calderón Peña from GIZ, we ran parking policy trainings and did rapid evaluations of the parking situations and parking policy opportunities in Bogotá, Ibagué and Pereira.
In this article I will reflect on the key themes from our conversation, which built on what we learned together in Colombia last year.
Are Colombian motorists especially willing to park off-street? And if so, why?This was a recurring theme last year.
We often heard that motorists in Colombia were (at least until recently) unusually willing to park off-street, even in priced off-street parking, and that the pressure on on-street parking had not been too serious.
If true, this is unlike most other places around the world, where motorists tend to be more than willing to park in the street. leading to overburdened street parking, unless parking management helps nudge some of them (usually the ones wanting to park all-day) to off-street alternatives.
Somehow, Colombia's cities were supposedly mostly achieving this goal of parking management without robust on-street parking management!
There does seem to be at least some truth to this. But things are not quite so simple and the reasons for it are not totally clear. Let me summarize the key issues:
- Colombia's cities, at least in their core areas, have large numbers of commercial off-street parking operators, known as parqueaderos. The reasons for this are not obvious. One possibility, at least in Pereira, is that the cities have been relatively liberal in allowing city-center buildings to not provide parking if they pay into a parking compensation fund. Parking lots as land banks for real-estate speculation is another possibility that came up later in the discussion.
- Security fear was one explanation we heard for the willingness to use and pay for off-street parking. Security in the streets of Colombian cities used to be much worse than today. Carlos reminded me that car bombs were part of this story in the bad decades.
- Carlos also noted that, in Bogotá at least, underground parking is almost universal for medium-sized or large buildings. This may help explain the relative lack of on-street parking in that city at least. Some parqueadero businesses use this underground or on-site parking (I saw some of this in Pereira - see the photos). However, private parking under buildings would not really explain a willingness to pay for public parking. We should also note that Bogotá parking requirements are low which might also boost demand for public parking.
Pereira. Commercial parking in a basement.
Large commercial garage in the background.
- Carlos also highlighted the role of Mayor Peñalosa (during his first time as Bogotá Mayor in 1998-2000) in discouraging on-street parking and making off-street parking a norm. [But the fact that he needed to do so undermines our security-fears theory a bit!] He famously said that he is not in charge of where you put your socks and he shouldn't be responsible for where you put your car. He meant on-street parking however, and he subsequently worked hard to increase the supply of public off-street parking. Similar sentiments were heard last year in Pereira, which has regulated on-street parking (in "Blue Zones" - see below), but where the Mayor wants to remove much of this on-street parking (completely, not just the pricing).
Probably some combination of these factors is at work.
Whatever the truth above, pressure on on-street parking is increasing, making improvements to parking management an urgent issue
The reason for our project last year was rising concern about parking problems. There was a sense in all three cities that on-street parking is getting out of control.
Possible causes of this growing problem include:
- car ownership and motorcycle ownership have both been rising rapidly since about 2000 and especially since 2006.
- the improved security situation is prompting people to be more willing to park in the street than they used to be.
- the old norm against on-street parking is eroding.
So Colombia's on street parking dynamics and the interactions with the off street parking are becoming more normal - more like other countries.
And therefore the need for normal parking management solutions is increasing.
Ups and downs of on-street parking fees in ColombiaBogotá has had free-of-charge on-street parking for decades (although there was some informal parking fee collection I think). But Carlos mentioned an old story from his father that Bogotá had parking meters in the 60s. He didn't sound too sure, though.
In any case, parking meters were back on the agenda in Bogotá last year. On-street parking fees have been approved by council but I am not sure when implementation (using several different payment mechanisms apparently) is happening.
Ibagué is also considering introducing parking fees.
|A Pereira 'Blue Zone' parking attendant |
explaining her work to us in 2017.
Various Colombian cities, including Pereira, do already have "Blue Zone" parking fees with on-street parking attendants collecting fees and giving paper tickets. However, Carlos mentioned that this got a bad name in the past due to leakage and was abolished by various cities.
The best version so far in Colombia is apparently in Medellin, where certain neighborhoods have what is called a ZER - regulated parking zone - in which the parking attendants use digital handhelds. It is still labor intensive but greatly reduces the problem of leakage.
Some Colombian cities cap the prices of off-street private-sector parkingOnly a few places around the world have government regulated prices for off-street private sector parking.
A number of Colombian cities, including Bogotá and Ibagué, are on that list. Bogotá's prices have hardly changed for decades. However, Pereira does not control its parking prices.
As Carlos mentioned in our conversation, fans of such price caps tend to equate parking fees to the fees for necessities or basic needs, like public transport fares. This ignores the fact that, in countries with low car ownership rates (like Colombia), parking fees are paid mainly by people with incomes well above the median. So parking fees and public transport fares are very different animals.
A price cap would also be expected to dampen the supply of parking. So this long-running policy adds to our puzzle over why these cities still seem to have relatively vibrant off-street commercial parking industries. On one hand, there was talk last year that many Bogotá parking operations are marginal and that some are closing. But on the other hand, Ibagué is seeing new parqueaderos opening. Perhaps Ibagué's price cap is not too severe compared with the price cap in the capital city.
Unsurprisingly, Bogotá's parking operators oppose the policy. But, surprisingly, Ibagué parking companies don't seem to fight the price cap there. This would be consistent with the possibility above that its price cap is not too harsh on the operators.
I mentioned that price caps on parking (or even bans on charging off-street parking fees) are spreading in India. Colombia's experience is a warning that price controls are a trap.
A parking surcharge proposal bites the dustDespite controlling its off-street parking prices, Bogotá officials recently tried to implement a 'parking surcharge'. This was to be a levy to be added by the city to every off-street parking fee. Apparently it would have roughly doubled the price.
The idea was to both dampen traffic congestion and to use the revenue for public transport service and investment.
Carlos thought it was a pretty good idea in principle, although the policy design would obviously provoke opposition from the parking operators. Motorist interests also complained, as always with such things, that the city's public transport was not yet good enough. That's why it needs funding, said Carlos!
However, the proposal was voted down recently.
I suggested in our conversation that at least operator opposition could have been eased if council stopped controlling their prices. This would not ease wider opposition to higher parking prices, of course. But it might answer one of the arguments against deregulating the prices by taxing away some of the apparent windfall for operators if prices were allowed to rise.
As an aside, we discussed how Colombian cities actually have strong powers to levy fees and taxes. For example, Bogotá has a successful fuel surcharge - 25 percent. The revenue goes half to mixed traffic roads and half for mass transit infrastructure.
Repurposing on-street parking is sometimes what locals wantOn a more hopeful note, Carlos shared his team's experience in Bucaramanga, where they were working on a cycling project.
They identified a street where it would be sensible to reduce the street width of the street, improve the crossing, and remove two or three parking spaces (which in any case were illegal parking spaces).
But they feared that this would go down badly.
Instead, when they made these suggestions to the local neighbors association, they heard that the community had been asking for exactly that change for two years already!
We need a solution to the scourge of frontage parkingOutside the pleasant and walkable urban core areas, parking in Colombian cities often takes the form of frontage parking: parking in the space between the building and the street.
|Frontage parking in Ibagué . Source: Google Maps - Street View|
This parking format, which is also common in India, in Vietnam, China, Indonesia, and probably many other countries, is awful for the pedestrian environment, as I discussed last time.
Unfortunately, solutions are elusive. If you hear of any successful interventions on this issue I would love to hear about them!
Don't be a child, just learn parking!We ended with this message from Carlos.
"Parking is a not sexy topic and it's a very nerdy topic and that's what maybe makes people say okay it's boring just put more parking and just build a multi-level story parking... You can do so many things with parking! If we could find the best way to demonstrate this to both people who were living in cities and the private sector and government ... It's like vitamins ... You have to understand that this is important. Don't be a child, learn parking!"
IF YOU LIKED THIS
Please SHARE this article and episode on social media or with any of your friends or colleagues who might be interested.Become a Patron!
If you haven't already, subscribe (for free):
If you haven't already, subscribe (for free):
- sign up to get updates by email from this site OR
- subscribe to the audio podcast (search for 'Reinventing Parking' in your podcast player app or you can click the symbol that looks like a wifi signal strength icon in the player below).
I would very much appreciate your feedback or comments below!
FULL TRANSCRIPT (only very lightly edited)[Paul Barter] Welcome to Reinventing Parking, the podcast about parking policy for anyone who wants a better city and better urban transport.
In this episode of Reinventing Parking I'm speaking with Carlos Felipe Pardo, who is executive director of the non-profit organization, Despacio, in Bogota, Colombia.
I also had him on my other podcast, Reinventing Transport, to talk about the idea of slowness in urban transport.
But Carlos also knows parking issues from his wide-ranging experience as a trainer and consultant on urban transport issues in cities across Asia Latin America and Africa.
Carlos has an MSc in Contemporary Urbanism from the London School of Economics and he was awarded the Danish Cycling Embassy's 2018 Leadership Award. I hope you'll enjoy the discussion as much as I did.
So Carlos Felipe Pardo, welcome to the Reinventing Parking podcast.
[Carlos] Thank you very much this is great to be here on this very nerdy topic.
[Paul] Haha, yes we've got parking nerds as our main listeners. So today we're going to talk about Colombia's cities and some of the interesting parking policy conundrums and trends in Colombian cities.
I should mention that I was in Colombia about a year ago and you and I worked together. We visited several cities and we ran some trainings and we investigated the parking situation in those cities. And so this conversation builds on what we learnt together in that process. Those cities were Bogota a little bit but also Ibague and Pereira, cities in the coffee region.
Several things surprised me about parking in Colombia. Most of my experience with parking has been in countries like Indonesia, China, India where motorists are more than willing to park in the street and the on street parking is generally less well managed than is ideal to to say the least. And so motorists will park too much in the street, illegally on the footpath everywhere and it's difficult to persuade them to park in the off street parking which often exists but has a cost - has a price. And so we have this very common problem.
In Colombia it was different and this came as a surprise. I have a sort of working theory - and perhaps you can tell me if I'm correct or not - but my working theory on that is that there's two reasons.
One is that there is off street parking. There's a sort of fairly vibrant industry of off street parking, partly because the cities have been liberal in allowing buildings to not provide parking if they pay into a parking compensation fund so this creates a the demand for off street parking.
The other reason there's demand for off street parking is what I mentioned that Colombian motorists - at least in the past - were willing to park off street much more so than in the regions I've worked in.
And my theory on that was that it's because of the security situation in the past ... it was bad. And so motorists, out of concern about their vehicle, would want to park off street.
Does that sound plausible that whole scenario? And does that match with how you perceive the situation?
[Carlos] Yeah I think there's a lot of truth it that. But there may be a little bit more history to these things.
There is one issue that I've noted in Colombian cities in particular especially when compared to other cities in Latin America, which is where I've worked the most. And it's that we had a lot of buildings with underground parking. You won't have over ground you won't have another lot of parking. So that's one very specific thing that I've found that is not so common at least in Latin America.
[Paul] So that's important because perhaps underground parking is extremely expensive and therefore requiring too much of it would seem unreasonable? So perhaps the parking requirements are not extreme in that case? Is that what you're getting at there?
[Carlos] Yeah so there is of course the the ... what we see in every city that doesn't understand parking. There are horrible requirements for parking. They're badly set. They're really enforced. Every person in development - any developer - is sort of afraid of not building the parking lot with even more than what is required by law. So that is sort of part of that trend.
But I think that that is sort of a part of the issue of people saying well we park off-street. We're not parking on the street. Like you go to Mexico and then you see that people are just parking everywhere.
But there's other things that I think are useful to understand this. One is the very very sinister issue of security that you've already raised. But then you have to link that also maybe to the fact that we had a lot of car bombs in the 90s in Colombian cities. So you would have cars that you would think oh that's just a car but then it would just all of a sudden explode and then just kill everybody around it. And we had a lot of that courtesy of Escabar - now this famous ... I guess TV star after dying. But the thing is that this kind of thing is what people are basically afraid of. I mean it has even happened to me on a bicycle. Like I've sometimes left the bicycle parked on the street and then everybody's like what is this bicycle doing there? Maybe it has a bomb inside.
But the one last thing that I think is is useful to understand this - that I at one point wrote about this in your blog of Reinventing Parking about the Bogota history the first part out of three and I haven't written the third part yet - But so what happened in the first Peñalosa mandate is that he actually encouraged strongly the private sector to build off streets - to get off street parking. Basically he said - I shouldn't be in charge of your socks where you put them - I shouldn't be in charge of where you put your car. So just have the private sector solve that.
[Paul] And these were public parking, even though it was private sector. But private sector building public parking , yeah? okay.
[Carlos] Exactly. So then he basically told anybody who would have an idea of having any sort of business - he told them well just get a parking lot for everybody because I won't be giving them parking on the street.
So that sort of generated this idea of parking on the street is bad. Not just for security reasons. It's just bad, period, because you don't have public space. So then car should be off the street.
And I think sort of the combination of those factors makes it very much of a norm of everybody saying well we just go and look for a parking lot where I'll pay. That could sort of give a little bit more history to it.
[Paul] And then fast forwarding to the situation now and part of the reason that people in the three cities were asking for help on parking is that there's a sense that there's a crisis of on-street parking getting out of control now.
And I guess some of the reasons for that might be that, first of all car ownership and motorcycle ownership have been going up over the last ten years as the Colombian economy's been doing quite well.
But also secondly with the security situation and the car bombing situation no longer so scary people are more willing to park in the street than they used to be.
And so Colombia's on street parking dynamics and the interactions with the off street parking are becoming more normal - more like other countries.
[Carlos] Right. And then, if you look at 2006 for example, that was the main change in motorisation in the country. That's when you saw that people were really starting to buy cars. And then when you look at around 2010 you start seeing this in motorbikes.
So it's exactly what you're saying. That we used to have enough space let's say for the cars that were there to just park off the street in the parking lots. But now we're starting to see that people are just ... everybody's buying a car and they're just looking for spaces to park anywhere. And yeah so I think motorization is a big thing that has changed the scenario and and and made people sort of started thinking about this.
There's one thing I've never really known as a fact because it was something that my father who just doesn't know too much or at all about transport was telling me once. He told me that in the 60s we had actual parking meters on the streets of Bogota, which to me sounds extremely weird because I had never heard of anybody talk about this. But I guessed that before the 90s and even before the 80s we must have had a lot of cars just parking anywhere on the street and then this sort of - I've never really started to look at when it was - that they started to go off-street.
[Paul] Ah ha. I had the same experience in Bangkok, when I visited Bangkok, and was looking into the parking there. And I was at the relevant agency and they took me into a back room and showed me these ancient parking meters that used to be in the streets of Bangkok. So yeah I guess this is a common story.
[Carlos] Yeah probably I would like to see ours. But we have to see.
[Paul] So, we have this existing sort of almost like a tradition that many motorists are accustomed to paying for off street parking wherever they go more or less or at least in many places where they go.
And so now cities are increasingly starting to say okay let's start to manage our on-street parking better. Let's start to introduce fees. Some of them have had fees for a while but many cities haven't and they're just introducing them. I know Bogota last year when we were there was was talking about introducing them. I don't know if it has happened yet. And the other two cities were at different stages of getting there.[Pereira actually does have them already.]
But it's an interesting phenomenon that even if people are willing or have been used to paying for off street parking it suddenly it seems to be a different story when suddenly they're asked to pay for on street parking. Am I getting that wrong?
[Carlos] Right I mean the typical thing in transport that when mostly motorists are used to something free or being paid by somebody else essentially, then when it starts being more explicit that they are the ones who have to pay then they get angry.
Now that I start to think more about this. We used to have one thing which was called the Blue Zones, which you saw in Pereira when you were there last year. And it's essentially a very manual - not to say archaic - but a very basic system where somebody charges you and just punches holes in a ticket and then just puts it in your windshield and it says well you basically paid. Now technology makes it much easier, no. We all know that parking is something which charging and defining the price has all these different technologies to make it work.
But the blue zones in the 80s and even 90s actually when they were in place they were just stopped because it was fully manual, so fully possible for the attendants to just find tricks to actually get all the revenue for themselves.
[Paul] I see, so this sounds very similar ... it sounds very similar to say in India where on street parking fees have got a very bad name because of the non-transparent and, you know frankly, sometimes even criminal involvement in in the on-street parking collection.
So yeah I guess that would be one another reason why people would be wary of the reintroduction of on street parking fees if they feel it's going to be like that.
[Carlos] But the user is fine like they know that they're going to pay less they're happy because they get their car basically it's minded by somebody. It's just the city is sort of saying well we're spending all this money to not get anything just even ... not even get our costs back. So it sort of generated that bad image.
But Medellin has something in certain neighborhoods which is called a ZER - regulated parking zone. And it's attendants who charge you but then they have this little machine - where it's much more difficult for them to - well to apply the trick that the other guys were applying. So then it starts to work.
[Paul] they have digital handhelds I understand, that's right. Interesting.
So is there any particular Colombian city that you could name that seems to be a leader in terms of improving its on-street parking management?
[Carlos] Other than the Medellin regulated parking zones, I can't ...
City councils are very strong in these kinds of things. They can basically veto any of these policies. The City Council in our cities in Colombia is extremely strong when it comes to charging things ... when it comes to generating new charges or taxes basically. And there is this this specific regulation that indicates that council is the only body that is able to approve or not approve or basically veto any new a tax - and that's exactly what it says any new tax.
But for whichever reason everybody in every government in Colombia is afraid of them [charging fees] - even if it's not a tax but a charge ... Even if it's a modification of the charge.
So we've had cities try - like Bogota has tried everything. They've tried congestion charging three times. They've tried liberating the parking price per minute in the off street, which is actually capped for the past ten years or so.
[Paul] That's a whole other issue we should talk about yes!
[Carlos] Yeah. They even tried to do more recently - like a month ago - they presented to council a plan to charge for something that is now called the surcharge ... 'parking surcharge' which is is allowed by national government within the development plan for cities to implement. And what they can do is that they can charge twice as much for parking. And then this is with this factor of one let's say that the remaining amount, additional to what is being charged originally, it goes straight to government. So that they can subsidize public transport.
So it's a pretty good idea. Not necessarily the best way to implement it because of course the private sector - the operators - will say well why what do I get out of this? But this was also stalled by the council. And they said, well we don't want this because we don't have public transit or have good public transport quality. And everybody was saying, it is exactly the point! This is the way that you fund better public transport for everybody.
[Paul] Okay, that's really fascinating isn't it, because you know many cities around the world would dream of having such powers to levy various fees and taxes. Colombian cities have that but of course the politics is not always easy to do such things and it's very easy to raise suspicions.
There's even a fuel levy isn't there. Bogota has its own fuel levy ...
[Carlos] We have a wonderful surcharge that is 25 percent on top of the what would be the price. And this is used - half of it is used for mixed traffic roads, the other half is specifically for mass transit infrastructure. And yeah that that has funded most of it.
[Paul] This issue of price controls ... because that was a really interesting topic that came up. There's only a few countries around the world where governments are - the local governments or higher level governments - regulate the prices of off-street private sector parking.
And Colombia is one of those places. Not all of the cities are doing it but some cities do. So Bogota does and I think Ibague does. But Pereira didn't. So I gather it varies around the country.
But that was a fascinating issue because it seemed to change the mindset and the politics of parking in those places that had that because once government is controlling the price of something then everything changes. It becomes a highly political issue. Whereas in Pereira parking prices were not a political issue, in Bogota and Ibague they were.
[Carlos] It's textbook transport economics, right? I mean, I guess it's right after saying hello, they explain you this exact phenomenon. And they say don't do it! This is not something to do! But then they anyway do it. And it's really sad.
And it's horrible that this cap has been going on for for beyond a decade. Like it hasn't even been adjusted for inflation or for anything. It's just been exactly the same for more than a decade.
And I really sided with operators on this. Of course everybody in every sector says that they're not earning money but they actually ... I don't know how they've been doing this in order to keep on having a business because their prices have not changed at all for this very long period of time. And everything else has increased Transmilenio fare has increased, the land value has increased, like everything has increased. But then they still have this cap and it's a fully political thing. Council says yes we don't agree to increasing parking prices because that's ... sort of ... it goes into the pockets of these very rich people. And yeah so it's really sad.
[Paul] So I guess maybe one opportunity to reform it might be to implement this parking surcharge or tax ... At the moment that that gets implemented then at the very same time deregulate the prices. So it might be a matter of timing. So that they can then say, okay we're making those rich people richer but we're going to tax away some of that at the same time, as a political way to get beyond this problem because … it's very interesting.
I see this in India. India hasn't had price controls on off street parking but several states are starting to do that now, partly based on court rulings and litigation by well-meaning consumer rights advocates who who think that there's some unfairness here. But it's a real problem and I can see how it's going to creep in and gradually India is going to be in this situation that Bogota and other Colombian cities are in. And once you have these price controls politically it's hard to get rid of them, isn't it.
[Carlos] Yeah and then there's this whole issue ... what you just said - fairness. What is fair to whom and why should you try and control something which will not really generate any fairness to anybody? Like it doesn't really generate equity. It doesn't really think about the poor.
And all the arguments in favor of saying oh yeah this is ... there are some poor people who are going by car because they need to go by car and then they don't have anywhere to park and they will be out of their jobs really will be very expensive. It's it's sort of this very minor population but there is no real argument behind this.
They tend to equate public transport fares to parking prices and they say, well no, I mean you have to be very careful about this because it is something that people are going to pay. But it's a completely different animal - public transport and parking it sort of actually the opposite animal almost.
[Paul] The commercial parking industry in many countries and cities is very difficult to understand because there's often so much else going on besides parking. A lot of the owners of these car parks are using them as land banks sometimes. So they're not actually making a profit on parking but they are waiting perhaps for the next real estate boom or to get permission to build a big building or whatever. And parking is just a sort of a you know a marker.
[Carlos] Yeah and Bogota had once this small initiative that lasted very little time. It was a decree that indicated that any land that would not be economically active for a good purpose would be taken and from the owner and then they would build social housing.
So it was a very thoroughly developed decree in Bogota. And they got to scare a lot of people who had like a hundred parking lots. And then they said, what am I going to do, I've been paying my taxes, so how are you taking this from me?
And this was exactly to avoid what you just said having people with a hundred parking lots which will eventually become this huge piece of real estate that they were just sitting on and they were just waiting for the right moment. But that decree of course was killed after a short while.
Of course, I don't have to tell you this, but parking is in the middle of all these problems for cities. And then if we don't address them properly then it's going to be a problem, I guess.
[Paul] Just to finish up our conversation let's talk about something that's relevant to the more outer parts of Colombian cities rather than the central core areas.
And that's - in areas where there is new commercial development along main streets and main roads, very often the main format for the parking is in the frontage of the building just in front of the building. They may well have underground parking in big buildings but small buildings that have been converted into shops very often the parking is just in front of the shop. And it very often is in an ambiguous position in whether it is on the private property property or in public space. It straddles the sidewalk the footpath very often.
And this is very similar to what happens in India, in Vietnam, China, Indonesia, and I'm sure it happens all over all over the world - Africa, Latin America. So it's a very common problem in the new growing areas of cities all over the world.
We need a solution. Carlos, do you have a solution for frontage parking in Colombia?
[Carlos] I've been struggling with that question myself. I think that this basically is from the assumption that people will not shop unless they have the opportunity to arrive by car directly, at the exact place where they're where they're going to shop.
Let's think about Guarulhos in Brazil. We were doing a training course once in 2006 July. And then we were walking around Guarulhos and then we saw that there was this one place - and this is the typical picture that many of us have in different places of the world - the car can actually go all the way into the shop basically. And it's actually taking space away from the products! Like they could have more products there. But they have preferred to give space for one car of one person that may come, rather than give more space for what they're selling. And then this was sort of this very clear indication that it was extremely important for them to have parking because they would otherwise not have it when they just decided that it should go into the shop.
[Paul] I wonder if it might even have been the shopkeeper themselves wanted to park but ...
[Carlos] Yeah no ... It's perfectly clear that it was them who took the design decision, let's say.
But then so what they did in the first Peñalosa term in 1998 [as Mayor of Bogota] was that they looked more specifically at who was parking, in order to arrive at these shops along Carrera Quince (15), this very specific road. They were going to take parking from the entire road ... ? from 72nd ... it was like more or less three kilometers or two miles more or less of this this Avenue.
And they said, well we have to demonstrate that this is really not something useful for them. When they did a survey looking at who was arriving by car it was more than 80 percent either the shopkeeper or the shop owner. And then they told them and said, well YOU are the ones who want to park here. It's not a question of you having more or less customers! It's just you thinking that you need to park. And then they just took all the parking out because they said, well your argument is useless ... more or less ten percent of people will need this and they can actually park a little bit further back or further away or in another Street. And this was something very specific.
[Paul] That's a reminder that these surveys of how people arrive, and where they park, and whether they've come by car or motorcycle at all, is a very useful tool in parking change and parking advocacy.
[Carlos] Right. And then the other example is actually from today. We are in Bucaramanga now doing a project here. The project is on cycling. But we as part of the project - we are working with UN Habitat. Well, they said, let's try to do something - one of these tactical urbanisms or pocket park ... and basically take space away from a road or a street or parking lot or a parking space.
And then we found one place where we said, well it's really really sensible to reduce the width of the street, to improve the crossing, and we could also take away two or three parking spaces, that we found that were actually not allowed to park but everybody was parking there. So we said, this is going to be a hassle. Like everybody's going to be against us. It's going to be really bad.
But when we arrived at the Neighbors sort of Association, they told us, we have been asking for exactly that for the past two years! So it ... what took you so long? And then we were really happy that we were actually doing some ... proposing something that we thought was going to be hell to describe and to present and to get their approval. And they were basically saying, this is what we wanted all along. So then the I think there are these small opportunities where you can see that people are actually positive about it and could ... hopefully we can get more of this in future.
[Paul] Yeah and getting back to that issue of frontage parking even in the interests of the shopkeepers, it would probably be better if, instead of them - for their very tiny shop - having just one or two private parking spaces, which you know is incredibly limited, if they could either do away with those and have parking in the street that is public (because the curb cut that allows people to get into the frontage means you can't have on street parking anyway).
Or continue to have the frontage parking but have all of those very very small frontage parking spaces somehow managed in a collective way, either through a neighborhood association or Business Association, or perhaps they can form an agreement with the city to have their frontage parking managed as part of the public parking for the area ... So that ... you know for example, a restaurants parking will be full at mealtimes but empty other times and you know different kinds of businesses have different peak times for their parking. And it would be beneficial for them if they could benefit from the pool of parking in the sort of walkable neighborhood, making use of their neighbors'
But it's a cooperation problem. We need some sort of mechanism. And I haven't heard of successful projects along these lines yet. But I keep plugging the idea. But if you hear of an example of anywhere doing that in a successful way that would be great.
[Carlos] Right. And I think that parking is a not sexy topic and it's a very nerdy topic and that's what maybe makes people say okay it's boring just put more parking and just build a multi-level story parking. Because they don't really get into it and don't say well it's really wonderful! You can do so many things with parking.
And if we could find the best way to demonstrate this to both people who were living in cities and the private sector and government to find out that, if they think about a little bit more, and just do this small effort, they would get a lot. It's like vitamins or like these things that you have to take when you were a child and you don't want to take them because they taste ugly. You have to take it. And you have to understand that this is important. Don't be a child, learn parking!
[Paul] Bitter medicine may not be the best analogy! We need to sweeten the deal somehow! [talking over each other ...] In future episodes we're going to have various Shoupistas. Hopefully one day we'll even have Donald Shoup himself on the on the program ...
[Carlos] Parking Rockstar ...
[Paul] Yes! Who's managed to make parking interesting for people!
So thanks very much Carlos it's been very interesting talking discussing our experiences and observations of Colombia parking and I hope it's been relevant to people outside of Colombia. A lot of these issues are universal. Each place has its own unique twists but it works differently everywhere, and we can learn from each other.
So thanks again, Carlos.