February 11, 2014

Planning Around Transit – The Case for Less Parking and More Mobility in São Paulo

A busy street in central São Paulo. Reducing parking would allow more space for pedestrians, public transit, and businesses. Source: ITDP.
A busy street in central São Paulo. Reducing parking would allow more space for pedestrians, public transit, and businesses. Source: ITDP. 

Decrease parking, increase public transit, and focus on mixed use development to increase mobility in your city. That’s the case ITDP staffer Michael Kodransky made at a panel in São Paulo discussing plans for the city’s upcoming Strategic Master Plan. Parking reductions are an important tool for cities seeking to direct growth around public transit and promote a dense, livable city. With the support of ITDP, São Paulo’s Mayor and the Secretary of Urban Development are looking to include an off-street parking reduction provision in the city’s upcoming Strategic Master Plan.

Parking reductions are an increasingly common tool for cities to focus resources on sustainable, compact growth. By eliminating parking minimums for new developments, cities free developers to use the space for housing, offices, and public space- all of which promote a mixed, livable city. For on-street parking, reduced and priced (e.g. not free) parking leads to more space available for pedestrians, cyclists and public transit. To reduce parking effectively, it should be paired with an expansion of public transit, minimizing the need for a personal vehicle and increasing mobility options for all city residents.

Michael Kodransky speaks about the importance of land use regulations and parking in shaping São Paulo's future.
Michael Kodransky speaks about the importance of land use regulations and parking in shaping São Paulo’s future.

At a panel hosted by SECOVI-SP, a São Paulo-based association of real estate developers that works closely with the government and ITDP, Michael Kodransky (left) spoke on the importance of including parking reform in São Paulo’s Master Plan. Presenting to a room of over 150 attendees, including the city’s Secretary of Urban Development, Fernando de Mello Franco, and City Council member Nabil Bonduki, Kodransky discussed how abolition of parking minimums, institutions of caps and creation of maximums have been realized in other global cities. Reducing parking will help with this goal by creating more livable space near transit corridors, rather than ceding the space to parked cars.

“Cities exist for people”, said Kodransky, not for cars. But over the past 50 years, cities have increased road space and parking infrastructure, becoming more dependent on cars. As city’s around the world, including São Paulo, continue to shift away from a car-centric planning model, they must consider how to shape public space through people-focused planning.

Kodransky cited other cities around the world that have had success eliminating parking to create more space for pedestrians. “In the 1960’s, [Copenhagen] started giving up street parking for pedestrian areas,” he explained, leading to better street life and increased commerce. Cities such as Paris and New York and have implemented parking reductions in their core districts, seeing the benefits, such as less noise and cleaner air, years later. In Mexico City, the implementation of EcoPark meters for on-street parking captures the real costs of car use, and 100% of proceeds are directed toward the improvement of public space. After seeing the benefits of parking reductions, Mexico City is currently considering reducing off-street parking as well, much like Paris and New York.

São Paulo’s Strategic Master Plan directs the city’s growth. Planning around transit is the best way to assure the city meets the needs of its growing population. Through parking reductions, increased public transit, and transport-oriented development, São Paulo has the opportunity to lead the way in building a city with mobility and equity for all.

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