Brazil is where it’s at these days. It is one of the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) whose economies are set to rise and to become the new world economic powers. Brazil also is hosting the next FIFA (Soccer) World Cup in 2014 and the next Summer Olympics, in Rio, in 2016.
Car ownership is booming, and parking needs are becoming more and more of an issue. In this context, Abrapark, the Brazilian Parking Association, held its second congress Nov 21-22 in São Paulo. At around 20 million inhabitants in the greater metropolitan area, the city is the largest in South America and seventh largest in the world.
The congress took place in parallel with TranspoQuip Latin America and Expo Parking, the local equivalent of the UK’s Traffex and Parkex, and both the shows and the conference were well-attended in what is, locally, a fledgling industry.
Abrapark was established in 2005, and so far membership is limited to members of the private sector, although Abrapark President André Piccoli was keen to emphasise their desire to attract more members from both the private sector and municipalities and other public sector bodies. This year, the congress was a sell-out, with the exhibitors’ list closed well before the start date. In total, there were more than 250 paying delegates, including academics and visitors from other South American countries.
The speaker program was impressive, with presentations from the UK, the US, Canada, Switzerland, Spain and The Netherlands, as well as a representative from São Paulo itself. Piccoli welcomed delegates in opening the congress.
The first speaker was Giuliano Mingardo from Erasmus University in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, who reported on research the university has been doing into the understanding of parking and transportation policy in the European Union. The core of its research was to establish an understanding of the key issues in parking and the extent to which there was or was not a consensus in the industry about certain issues.
Mingardo’s work has demonstrated the extent to which basic “joined-up thinking” is still lacking, with examples such as the city with a clear transport policy aimed at reducing car use in its city center that spent €100m on what is probably one of the most expensive parking structures per space in the world.
Mingardo was at pains to point out that even if there were a broad consensus on a question, it did not follow that the consensus was right, challenging the audience by posing such questions as “Which is better: one car parked for eight hours or five cars each parked for about 90 minutes?” Mingardo has been asked to repeat the research in Brazil, and he was using the opportunity to both share preliminary results of his findings and to encourage local parking operators to contribute to the research.
Liliana Rambo, Parking Director of Houston (TX) Airport Systems, gave an interesting presentation on operations at a major U.S. airport complex. She explained how the city had evolved its parking operations from in-house, through a hands-off franchise-type contract, to the present partnership service, where a private parking supplier and the city work together to deliver best practices.
Rambo’s presentation described some of the value added services that Houston’s airports offered, such as premium reserved parking spaces for frequent fliers. She also explained how off-airport parking went from being seen as a threat and a constraint to become part of the bigger picture, with the airports authority being able to charge the off-site operators a fee for allowing their bus operations to use the airport facilities.
Day 1 of the Abrapark congress was closed by yours truly, who introduced recent work in the UK and Europe on good carpark design and operation. The UK’s Institution of Structural Engineers published the fourth edition of the authoritative “Design Recommendations for Multi-storey and Underground Car Parks” in March 2011. This, coupled with the European Parking Association’s work on its Standard Parking Award, which describes an assessment framework for carparks, gives a solid framework for those looking for guidance on building good parking structures.
Day 2 was opened by Teresa Sapey, an Italian architect and interior designer, who has worked in Spain for some time and has gained a reputation for her avant-garde and sometimes, frankly, quirky work on carpark interior design. Regardless of your opinion on her projects, the results cannot be denied. Sapey has taken run-down and user-unfriendly carparks and turned them into a riot of color, creating a style and environment that would send many traditionalists reaching for the tablets, yet and most important, creating a place where people want to park their cars.
Perhaps for the Brazilians, the most pertinent presentation came from David Hill of Canada, a former parking manager for several major Canadian conurbations. As Brazil will host the next soccer world cup and next Summer Olympics, the question of how to manage the transportation problems that will arise from these events is top of the local agenda, especially for operators who will shortly be tendering to run the required parking operations.
Hill, whose experience includes managing major sporting events where they were sometimes parking cars at rates of more than one a second, explained some of the likely issues at the planned sports events, and shared his knowledge and experience with the audience.
I also got the job of closing the second day of the congress, presenting a report on parking policy in the UK. Mingardo’s opening white paper had gone to some lengths to describe the extent to which so many parking policy decisions are made on emotional rather than rational grounds, and my presentation echoed this strongly, pointing to examples of policies in the UK where decisions were long on rhetoric and short on science or logic. (Most of the reports will be published on the Abrapark website in due course.)
There were more than 100 trade show exhibitors from 15 countries. This included well-known international providers such as Parkeon and Zeag, U.S. favorites 3M and Toledo Ticket Co., and local manufacturers and operating companies.
In many ways, the Brazilian market is still quite unsophisticated, and talking with one European equipment manufacturer, it was clear that the country still has some way to go before the market is ready for the sorts of technology now commonplace in Europe and becoming more familiar in the US.

Peter Guest is a consultant in the UK and PT’s correspondent on all things parking in Britain, Europe, the Middle East and now Brazil. He can be reached at

It’s impossible to attempt to give more than a slight flavor of local parking conditions in São Paulo, Brazil, but a couple of things are immediately clear. Off-street parking downtown is pretty expensive, with typical rates starting at about $7 per hour. By contrast, public parking operates under a program called Zona Azul (blue zone), which operates on-street and in off-street parking lots. The paid parking system has about 36,000 spaces, and operates using a scratch card that costs about $4.50 per hour.
About 5% of the spaces in Zona Azul are for drivers with disabilities, and there also are spaces for trucks, residents and the elderly. The difference in prices is surprising but perhaps explained in part by the relative security of parking a car on- and off-street in a city with one of the highest crime rates in the world.
São Paulo has a metro system, but the main means of mass transit is the bus. The extensive fleet includes massive three-part “bendy buses,” which I believe carry about 200 people. The city also is promoting cycling, with bicycles for hire, similar to the “Boris bikes” in London, and a slowly growing network of cycle ways and cycle priority.
At present, the city fathers seem a little nervous about the pedal cycle, with some bike lanes being opened only at weekends. In time, they might look at places such as Shanghai and Amsterdam and realize that the world does not end if cars are forced to take second place to the bike in a few streets.
Peter Guest
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