July 26, 2017

How Mexico City Became A Leader in Parking Reform

This post is available in Spanish on ITDP Mexico’s website here

On July 11, Miguel Ángel Mancera, Mayor of Mexico City announced the “limitation of parking spaces in the city construction code”. This new norm changes minimum parking requirements to maximum depending on the land use of the construction. This puts Mexico City, the largest city in North America, far ahead of American cities in this commitment improving land use, prioritizing people over cars.

As our cities grow, street space and real estate are becoming ever more valuable commodities. However, outdated regulations still require developers to build huge amounts of parking for residential and commercial buildings, regardless of factors such as car ownership, proximity to transit, and market demand. This has a whole host of negative consequences, including incentivizing driving, creating congestion, and reducing the space available for more important purposes, such as housing, transit, and public space. In the past week, there have been several great pieces written on the importance of this change, particularly in how it related to affordable housing, a growing need in nearly every major city.

For housing, the limit is 3 parking spaces per unit no matter its size, and for offices bigger than 100 square meters, the limit is 1 parking space per every 30 square meters. It also considers mandatory space for bicycle parking and the creation of a Fund to Improve Mass Transit that the developers must pay as they approach the maximums in the Central area of Mexico City. More details for this new regulation can be found here (in Spanish).

This major policy change is a result of ITDP Mexico’s advocacy over the last 10 years, when we began working with government agencies to develop alternatives to the private car, as well as mechanisms to reduce its use. To achieve this, the rational management of parking was key. So in 2014, with the support of the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing (SEDUVI), the research study “Less parking, more city” (“Menos cajones, más ciudad”) was born providing enough evidence to show the need of a change of paradigm. This study evolved into a proposal to modify the Construction Code that ITDP delivered to Mexico City’s Government in 2015.

The full report from ITDP Mexico, in English, that resulted in this major policy reform.

Less Parking, More City gathered evidence of unsustainable trends for the city such as more square meters are being built for parking spaces than for housing. In other words, we are constructing buildings to allocate cars, while we are sending people to live in the periphery of the city, far away from their jobs, their families, and their everyday lives. This clearly goes against our aim of the inclusive and equitable cities.

Another finding of the study is that more than 40% of everything built in Mexico City is parking spaces, above any other land use including housing. In average a parking space requires between 27 m2 and 150,000 mexican pesos (about 8,500 USD) of direct constructions costs (a conservative estimate). In the 251 big real estate projects analyzed between 2009 and 2013, more than 250,000 parking spaces were constructed, with an estimated cost of 37,000 Million pesos. With that money 18 lines of Bus Rapid Transit (Metrobús in Mexico City) lines could have been built to move more than 3 million users per day.

On the other side, statistically, the demand per parking space is lower than that previously mandated by minimum parking requirements. When comparing the quantity of parking spaces in the projects, we noted that in the great majority of cases, builders try to get as close as possible to the minimum required. 67.7% of the cases studied devoted less than 10% of parking spaces above the bare minimum required.

Besides this, it is important to note that due to the size and dimensions of the land and projects, it is very difficult for developers to make exactly the bare minimum quantity required, so it usually actually turns out to be greater than this. For example, a development has a minimum of 90 parking spaces allowed, but logistically the project needs at least 3 stories for parking with a capacity for 40 parking spaces on each, so it makes economical sense for the developer to just build the 120 parking spaces.

Once this kind of evidence was gathered and the best international practices were studied, the cooperation between agencies and individuals among a diversity of areas has been necessary for the implementation of this proposal. It is important to highlight that this collaborative dynamic could function as a replicable model for the implementation of positive public policies in our cities. This collaboration was aided with a contest to rethink parking lots; an idea from the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO), with the support of strategic allies coming from private companies, civil society organizations, and a multidisciplinary jury of prestigious members: architects, urban planners, economists and public policy experts. During the award ceremony, in February of this year, the City’s Mayor announced the need to reform the current Car Parking Norm, as part of his mobility and development government strategy for a more people-centered City.

A change of policy of this importance is not the work of a single individual or institution. ITDP Mexico supported the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, and the Ministry of Mobility in the process of technical discussion with the different important guilds that are essential in the on-the-ground implications of this, such as the Real Estate Association (ADI). At the same time, agreements were made with the National Association of Supermarkets, Convenience and Departments Stores and also with the National Chamber of the Industry of Development and Promotion of Housing with the best of intentions to reach win-win agreements. The Legislative Assembly also recognized the need to reform the policy, and the role of civil society was incredibly important. Bicitekas, WRI, editorial house Arquine and, of course, IMCO, were all key to creating this more powerful, cross-cutting and lasting public policy.

Next steps

To reduce the need to build parking spaces is a fundamental step in the right direction, and opens up the opportunity for further work and strategies. ITDP Mexico will continue to work with the city and our partners to ensure this success continues, with these next steps:

  • Education to the city’s residents on the advantages of this new norm, and support for behavioral changes around transport to maximize this impact.
  • Follow up of the direct impacts of the policy to measure variables such as enforcement, reduction in traffic, quantity of square meters dedicated to new uses, such as more and improved public spaces.
  • Continue and accelerate the options of sustainable urban mobility, specifically mass transit.
  • Empower and extend the program of parking meters EcoParq, a natural and necessary ally of this change.
  • Find mechanisms to allow for more supply of housing at accessible prices in the central areas of the City, ensuring that developers take full advantage of this goals of this policy.

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