May 11, 2012

CEO Walter Hook Speaks on Urban Mobility in Mexico City

24. Walter

On May 8th, ITDP CEO Walter Hook addressed the largest real estate conference in Mexico City on best practices in urban mobility, zoning, and parking management.

Mexico City has seen a startling 95 percent increase in car use over the last decade, due to poor transportation policy and zoning regulation that has encouraged sprawl and given few options beyond individual motorized transport. This is having detrimental effect on air quality and congestion, and increasing commuter times. Last year’s IBM Commuter Pain Index placed Mexico City in last place, behind 19 other cities including Beijing, Nairobi, and Los Angeles.

Dr. Hook, speaking after President Calderón, praised Mexico City’s new positive sustainable transportation policies with the opening of line 4 of the Metrobus BRT system, which runs from the historic city center all the way to the airport, cutting airport transit times nearly in half. An expansion of the ECOBICI bike sharing program is coming soon, and the recent implementation of a parking meter system in Polanco, ecoParq, are all steps in the right direction.

Dr. Hook recommended that zoning and parking regulation follow best practices around the world, such as linking completely to the transit system. One example he gave is New York City’s PLANYC zoning, which abolished minimum parking requirements and forbid density increases at locations far from a public transit station. Curitiba, Brazil implemented zoning policies to increase development along the BRT corridor and restrict density everywhere else.

Parking regulation can play a key role in controlling urban car use as well. EcoParq should be encouraged to grow throughout Mexico City accompanied by strong enforcement. The system could improve its operations by varying price by time, day, and location to achieve the optimal goal of 15 percent availability on every block, linking to off-street and controlling the amount of traffic certain streets can handle. Best practices in off-street parking, mainly implemented in European cities, is to set a maximum, or parking space cap, per zone.

Dr. Hook concluded by suggesting six clear steps Mexico City should to follow for new parking and zoning regulation:

1.  Stop increasing density unless you are within a 10-minute walk of Metro or Metrobus.
2. Remove parking minimums and replace them with maximums that relate to road congestion and distance from a metro station.
3. Remove setback requirements and require buildings to go to the property line with commerce on the first floor.
4. Traffic impact assessments should be used to reduce parking requirements.
5.  Establish a zone-based cap for parking supply on both on and off-street parking.
6.  Rapidly expand the Metrobus BRT system and use zoning to increase density in the BRT corridor.

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