At an event in Mexico City this week, ITDP Mexico released a new report, “Fewer Spaces, More City”, proposing six changes to parking regulations in the Federal District. Based on an analysis of existing parking regulations and current trends, ITDP Mexico warned that parking is the fastest growing land use in the city, generating an oversupply of spaces and creating incentives to use personal vehicles over public transit.
In addition, ITDP looked at parking’s effect on urban development and mobility in the city. The study found that parking regulations in Mexico City are built on false assumptions and respond to a city model different from the one envisioned by the current administration in the General Development Program 2013-2018 and in the new Mobility Law.
The reliability of parking at the origin and destination of a trip incentivizes car use for city residents. As a result, this guarantee of ample and accessible parking induces more vehicle congestion and increased emissions, causing serious negative health effects for citizens.
The best way to confront the disproportionate increase in parking is to eliminate the existence of regulations that require parking minimums for newly constructed buildings.
At the event, Bernardo Baranda, Director of ITDP Latin America, underlined that “minimum parking standards have no relation to the coverage and service level of public transit, and along major roads, it is generally permissible to ‘build up’ in exchange for providing 20% more spaces.”
“Thus, according to the regulations on the books, which have not been updated for many years, it is more important to create space for parked cars than people,” added Baranda.
Big Developments in Mexico City
Andrés Sañudo, Parking Policy Coordinator for ITDP, said that according to an analysis of 251 real estate developments built between 2009 and 2013, of the more than 16 million squaremeters of floor area, 42% are dedicated to parking, adding up to more than 250 thousand spaces.
The study found that the majority of the floor area constructed was concentrated in four of Mexico City’s 16 boroughs: Miguel Hidalgo, Benito Juárez, Álvaro Obregón y Cuauhtémoc. The highest number of new parking spaces were also in these areas. For example, over the study period, the space dedicated to parking in Miguel Hidalgo multiplied by five times.
“This indicates that if the Federal District continues this development path in the coming decades, it would require five times the developable area just to hold the parking spaces required by the existing regulations,” said Sañudo.
In addition, he argued that, since the regulations are uniform for the whole city, spaces for personal vehicles are built for every development, not just where there is limited public transit service.
Another common culprit in building excess parking is malls and commercial centers. ITDP noted that often, these developments provide enough parking to be sufficient on the highest days of the year, such as Christmas, Mother’s Day, or Black Friday. They also charge a parking fee to make the lots more profitable.
As a result of their study, ITDP proposes the implementation of the following actions:
- Eliminate the requirement for minimum parking spaces for new constructions
- Limit the number of spaces that can be added in each construction, such as the total number of spaces, public and private, in congested zones of the city
- Implement financial incentives for urban developments that will cause the number of new spaces to be lower when there is higher access to public transport
- Strictly control the location, amount and quality of public parking
- Facilitate the shared use of existing parking between land uses with complementary demand schedules
- Reinforce and increase the parking management program, ecoParq
Parking Policy at the International Level
At the event, ITDP cited the experiences from around the world that have optimized parking in their cities.
In 1982, New York established a maximum number of parking spaces allowed in downtown Manhattan in order to control the amount of parking offered. As a result, the total number of public parking spaces has reduced from 127 thousand to 102 thousand from 1978 to 2010.
Similarly, in the United Kingdom has a national policy that encourages cities to apply a parking maximum. As an example of the measure’s effectiveness, the building of the Swiss Re insurance company has 48,000 m2 of office space and retail, and only has five parking spaces, exclusively reserved for those with disabilities.
Another effective method to reduce parking based on proximity to public transit. In Paris, developments are given a 100% discount on the required parking minimums for constructions within a 500 meter radius of a mass transit station. Residential developments are a allowed a maximum of one space for every 100 m2.
In Ottawa, Canada, they implemented maximums on the construction of parking spaces for properties 600 meters from mass public transit stations, creating a much stricter maximum in the city center.
Recently, São Paulo, Brazil, became the first Latin-American metropolis to eliminate parking requirements across the whole city and implement maximums along corridors of mass public transit, according to the new Master Plan for the city.
At the event, Bernardo Baranda emphasized that “this is not an attempt to keep cities from developing; on the contrary, it tries to encourage development and take advantage of space that is dedicated to parking for all the other uses that cities require, and a quality public transit system that can absorb the trips generated by these developments.”
Header image: Avenida Hidalgo, Mexico City. Credit: Eneas De Troya