Brazil is no stranger to the challenges facing global cities today. Simultaneously hailed for innovations like bus rapid transit and lamented for its squalid favelas, the country sits at the bleeding edge of urban policy.
And so it comes as a surprise that throughout the nation, Brazil's traffic woes are worsened by seemingly anachronistic minimum parking requirements. As Smith explains, "A few decades ago Brazil joined a number of developing nations in adopting American-style minimum parking requirements for new developments... While planners seek to make sure everyone who has a car has some place to park it, critics contend that rather than simply making room for those who will inevitably drive, the policies are actively encouraging motorization."
Brazil owes its auto-oriented policy in part to the legacy of modernist urban design, beginning in the middle of the last century. Planned in that tradition, the capital city of Brasília "eschewed the pedestrian-and-transit-oriented trappings of other cities. The city was originally envisioned... without sidewalks or stoplights on the main boulevards, and the abundance of cloverleaf intersections testifies to the city's original planners favoring of motor traffic over all else."
But the requirements do not reflect the reality of already-overtaxed streets in cities throughout Brazil, where critics argue that the needless parking takes away precious space and constrains better forms of growth. One commercial developer in São Paulo said, of developers' feelings about the requirements, "No, they are not happy, but it is what it is. It's the status quo, and no one questions it anymore."
Thanks to Stephen J. Smith