São Paulo discourages excessive parking close to transit by increasing its opportunity cost
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Brief summary of this reform
São Paulo's 2014 strategic master plan discourages excessive parking provision in buildings close to transit corridors. Below a threshold, parking does not count towards the calculation of allowed Floor Area Ratio (FAR) under the zoning rules. However, parking provided beyond the threshold DOES count towards FAR. This greatly increases the opportunity cost for developers of providing excessive parking.
Why should you care?
The idea of making excessive parking space count towards the allowed floor area in zoning calculations is a promising approach that other cities should study. It increases the opportunity cost of parking in a context-sensitive way. This fascinating and market-friendly approach to discouraging excessive parking provision close to public transport deserves more attention.
Key actor type
City of São Paulo
mode shift or TDM
Secretaria Municipal de Desenvolvimento Urbano (SMDU)
Is it a model or a warning?
Main parking category
Main parking paradigm shift
other supply disincentives
Away from excessive supply AND towards more responsiveness to context/market
Adaptive Parking thrust
D: Discourage or limit parking supply in certain contexts
Goals of the reform
Discourage excessive parking provision in buildings close to transit corridors as part of a strategy to guide the growth of the city towards areas close to public transport.
'Councilman Nabil Bonduki, a trained urban planner who pushed for the successful vote, called it a measure “to curb the dictatorship of the automobile.”' See https://nextcity.org/urbanist-news/sao-paulo-brazil-master-plan-parking-spaces-traffic-public-transit
Impetus (what problem, campaign, opportunity or event prompted action?)
Issues that prompted these changes included a housing deficit and dismay over the results of decades of car-oriented development patterns, including a tendency for housing near good public transport to be aimed at high-income earners, fenced off, set back from the streets, and built with large numbers of parking spaces per unit.
ITDP (2018, p.21) notes that this policy is intended to avoid a mistake made by Curitiba where, despite densification along the BRT corridors, an oversupply of parking spaces in nearby buildings resulted in higher car-ownership among families residing in the close to the public transport stations than among residents further away.
Detailed description of the reform
São Paulo's 2014 strategic master plan discourages excessive parking provision in buildings close to transit corridors by increasing the opportunity cost of providing excessive parking.
This involves setting thresholds for parking provision with buildings in the defined transit corridor zones. Below the relevant threshold, parking provided with a building does not count towards the calculation of allowed Floor Area Ratio (FAR) under the zoning rules. However, parking provided beyond the threshold DOES count towards FAR.
This discourages excessive parking supply because for parking spaces beyond the threshold:
- developers must now choose between useful built area or parking spaces. Useful built area, such as office or residential space is usually of higher sale or lease value per square meter than parking space.
- in cases where developers have the option of paying a development fee for the right to build, this fee will count not just the additional useful built area but also the parking area above the threshold.
Reports on these thresholds have sometimes referred to them as 'maximums' but this label is misleading. Developers are still free to build as much parking as they see fit. However, this policy greatly increases the opportunity cost of providing excessive parking.
This reform is one of the three key parking steps in São Paulo's strategic master plan that was released on 31 July 2014:
1. Eliminating minimum parking requirements (parking mandates) for buildings across the city
2. Prohibiting 'frontage parking'. The plan banned the creation of parking spaces at walkway level in the frontage area between the front of the lot and the building.
3. Discouraging excessive parking provision in buildings within transit corridor zones by making parking provided beyond a certain threshold count towards the Floor Area Ratio (FAR).
This case is about #3. A previous case focused on #1. See https://www.parkingreformatlas.org/parking-reform-cases-1/s%C3%A3o-paulo-parking-minimums-abolition
The transit-corridor zones (or 'areas of influence of the structuring axes of urban transformation') are:
- For mass transit stations: plots that fall completely within 600 m or partially within 400 m of the station (circular zones of influence)
- For bus: plots that fall completely within 300 m or partially within 150 m of the line (linear zones of influence).
Under the strategic master plan, the public transport axes are priority places for urban transformation and optimization of urban land.
The thresholds in the 2014 strategic master plan were:
- Residential: one space per housing unit
- Non-residential: one space per 100 square meters of computable floor area.
For area calculations, the plan takes 32 square meters as the area per parking space (including circulation space and so on).
In 2016, the Land Installment, Use and Occupancy Law (Lei de Parcelamento, Uso e Ocupação do Solo - LPUOS) was enacted to consolidate the strategies presented in the strategic master plan of 2014.
This 2016 zoning law watered down the reform a little for residential buildings (ITDP, 2018, p.23). The residential threshold was changed from one parking space per unit to one parking space per 60 square meters of computable area. As a result, large apartments could again be built with more than one parking space free of counting towards the FAR computation.
Comments from 'Rafael' on the Reinventing Parking article on the 2014 parking reforms provided further insights. Rafael explained that São Paulo has been implementing "paid allowance for building rights". According to Rafael, the basic FAR had been set to 1 in most of the city. However, along the public transport axes, an FAR of up to 4 is possible upon payment of these development fees. This is why extra parking beyond the threshold in transit zones generally attracts a fee.
Incidentally, making some parking count towards the calculation of built area is also used in Singapore where only the required parking is exempted from counting as part of the allowed floor area (gross floor area, GFA) under the development controls (zoning). See https://www.reinventingparking.org/2011/06/deliberate-parking-crunch-in-singapores.html
Results or impacts
For a preliminary evaluation of results of the parking reforms in the 2014 strategic master plan, see this companion case: https://www.parkingreformatlas.org/parking-reform-cases-1/s%C3%A3o-paulo-parking-minimums-abolition
Sources and acknowledgements
Reinventing Parking (October 2014) São Paulo's parking "maximums" ain't maximums, https://www.reinventingparking.org/2014/10/sao-paulos-parking-maximums-aint.html
ITDP (7 July 2014) New São Paulo Master Plan Promotes Sustainable Growth, Eliminates Parking Minimums Citywide https://www.itdp.org/2014/07/07/new-sao-paulo-master-plan-promotes-sustainable-growth-eliminates-parking-minimums-citywide-2/
ITDP Brasil (2018) (in Portuguese) Políticas de estacionamento em edificações na cidade de São Paulo: análise dos efeitos legais da legislação no desenvolvimento urbano (Parking policies in buildings in the city of São Paulo: analysis of the legal effects of legislation on urban development) https://itdpbrasil.org/politicas-de-estacionamento-em-edificacoes-na-cidade-de-sao-paulo-analise-dos-efeitos-legais-da-legislacao-no-desenvolvimento-urbano/
Marcela Alonso Ferreira, Hannah Arcuschin Machado, Fernando Túlio Salva Rocha Franco, Fernando de Mello Franco (2020) Brazil: Sao Paulo, in in Dorina Pojani, Jonathan Corcoran, Neil Sipe and Iderlina Mateo-Babiano (eds.) Parking: An International Perspective, 1st Edition. Elsevier.
The image at the top is from ITDP 2018 p. 18. Figure 4 - Criteria for the inclusion of lots in the area of influence of the structuring axes of urban transformation. [Figura 4 - Critério para inclusão dos lotes na área de influência dos eixos de estruturação da transformação urbana.]
The image at the bottom is also from ITDP 2018 (this time Figure 6 from page 22). It shows the difference between the regulation of residential parking spaces under the strategic master plan (PDE-SP) of 2014 and under the Zoning Act of 2016.
4 Feb 2022