Case Study Source: The Joint U.S.-Brazil Initiative on Urban Sustainability, part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Congestion and prolonged commute times have become a negative reality of large cities. Various methods of travel demand management, such as congestion pricing, toll roads, and parking reform, have been used to minimize this negative effect. Parking reform, while sometimes contentious, has proven to be effective in minimizing congestion in urban areas by creating mode shifts to public transportation. Furthermore, implementing new policies to eliminate minimum off-street parking requirements and establish maximums as well as removing on-street spaces to allow for better use of the roadway space enables better travel management. In cases of travel demand management, it is important to note that when implementing restrictive parking measures, a city must also provide viable transit alternatives.
The City of Niterói, located in the metropolitan area of Rio de Janeiro, has begun to acknowledge that while the issue is politically sensitive, the common interest is better served by managing parking supply. The City has been prioritizing efficient public transportation, creating bus-only corridors, and removing unnecessary on-street parking spaces to enhance mobility for its citizens.
Niterói began removing on-street parking spaces in 2010 and has since removed 390 on-street spaces along 8 streets, with plans to remove an additional 214 on-street parking spaces by 2013. These efforts have been made to prioritize public transportation by creating bus-only corridors and improve mobility. The city recognized that when these dense and mixed-use areas are served by efficient public transportation, they do not require on-street spaces. The areas where spaces have already been removed have not seen ill effects of the removal.
For example, in October 2011, a two-day traffic standstill affecting three neighborhoods and an adjacent municipality led the city to limit access to 700 private parking spaces at a popular supermarket. While originally reluctant, the supermarket did not experience a decrease in sales, in part because this area is very well serviced by public transportation.
Other Latin American cities have also started to reclaim streets for public use. Mexico City has removed approximately 200 of on-street spaces to install the first phase of the largest bike share program in Latin America, called ECOBICI. When the final installation of ECOBICI is completed, a total of approximately 800 on-street parking spaces would have been removed.
Nittrans-Niterói, Transporte e Trânsito
Director of Traffic and Transportation Planning