The girl from Ipanema goes parking!

On a cold and wet night a few weeks ago, I made my way to London’s Heathrow Airport to board a flight to São Paulo, Brazil for Expo Parking, organized in cooperation with Abrapark (the Brazilian Parking Association) and IPI.

I 100 percent admit that I was expecting it to be a very slow four days on the expo floor . How wrong I was! The story is in the numbers: thousands of feet of exhibition space, 100 exhibitors, and crowds of industry attendees.

The first thing that hit me upon landing in São Paulo was the sheer volume of cars on the road, and that this congestion lasts all day, every day. A short journey from Sao Paulo International Airport to my hotel should have taken 20 minutes; two and a half hours later, I was still stuck in traffic.

The main problem is that Brazil’s roads are not built for its current car ownership boom. In 2012, the number of cars on the road rose to a staggering 42.2 million. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending who you ask), present-day public transport is not a viable option.

These two problem areas formed the basis for discussions at the Third Brazilian Parking Conference, held during Expo Parking 2013 in São Paulo last month. The conference, organized by Abrapark, focused on urban mobility, and of course, parking was high on the agenda. The age old chicken-egg scenario was debated at length: do parking lots encourage car use? Needless to say, we did not reach a definitive conclusion.

After a few days of meetings and talking to people on the show floor, it soon became apparent that urban development is at the top of everyone’s agenda in both government and business circles. What I hadn’t realized was that parking is seen as an important ally in this development.

As of 2012, Brazil had 34 international airports, 458 shopping centers, and 661 sports stadiums and that number is on the increase–as is the number of parking spots needed! It was nice to see parking taking an advisory role in the quest to figure out what to do with all those cars.