Author: Michael Lake


Rio de Janeiro a city with almost 12M inhabitants shares a problem familiar to most cities—a lack of adequate parking spaces and the means to properly manage them. Parking is an essential need for city drivers and those businesses wanting such individuals to get to work, shop or do business, but lack of a streamlined parking system can cause greater congestion, longer commutes and short-fused tempers. There is great value for any city, especially a city with the existing traffic congestion of Rio, not to mention the increased traffic during next year’s Olympics, to seek a solution for parking that improves drivers’ experience, optimizes revenue for the city and reduces traffic congestion simultaneously.

Presently, Rio de Janeiro’s parking system and relevant monitoring simply does not exist according to modern standards. There are no parking meters or monitoring software.  Instead, Rio’s formal system of parking is a legacy system whereby drivers parking in a “managed” spot, purchase a parking ticket from the street parking supervisor for R$2,00 ($0.50 USD) for up to two hours of parking. The transaction is cash-based, with little, if any control or oversight. The rest of the on-street parking in Rio it is an informal system with non-managed spots generally managed by individuals who don a vibrantly colored vest and usher drivers toward the nearest vacant spot, whether they are looking for one or not. Of course, this “service” comes at a fee—yes, a fee for parking in a non-metered public spot and at least some drivers seem happy to pay it.

Can a more formal, more technology-based approach to parking management make an impact in Rio, or any other city?

In Donald Shoup’s piece Free Parking or Free Markets he explains “sixteen studies conducted between 1927 and 2001 found that, on average, 30 percent of the cars in congested downtown traffic were cruising for parking.” Added congestion is just the beginning. Shoup further references a 2008 study conducted within 15 blocks of Manhattan’s Upper West Side that determined it took an average of 3.1 minutes driving .31 miles to find a parking spot. It does not seem like much, but he calculates that on an annual basis that is the equivalent to “366,000 excess vehicle miles of travel (equal to 14 trips around the earth) and 325 tons of CO2.”

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