Parking in Caracas is getting harder

The closest to an oasis for caraqueño drivers

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post about the ordeal that drivers in Caracas and other Venezuelan cities face every day just to find an available parking spot.

Well, at least 40,000 parking spaces in Caracas have been lost between 2005 and 2012, according to Benigno Luis Marco, head of the National Association of Parking Lots and Garages (ANPAGE).

A 2010 report of the same organization indicated the overall deficit of parking spaces in the capital was around 740,000. There were 800 parking lots at the time, but the report said the city needed at least another 800 more to satisfy the demand.

There are multiple reasons behind this problem. During this time, all parking lot-related prices were frozen by the government (until they were finally reviewed last year). But the lack of clear rules and no investment in new spaces (with the exception of private shopping malls) have forced some to even use public sidewalks as an alternative.

The lack of parking space is also a collateral damage of the G.M.V.V. housing program, as the State expropiated parking lots to construct new buildings. The irony is that many of those buildings don’t have any garages for their residents, so… they have to leave their cars right out in the open. Think about that the next time you’re stuck in traffic in Caracas.

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    • How about public transportation that is reliable, clean, and above all safe? Safe in traffic and safe from criminality.

    • You are totally right. Nobody has ever thought of any different ideas to reduce traffic congestion in Caracas besides making it impossible to park. Nobody has ever thought, for instance, of…

      -Bike lanes
      -Bike parking
      -Tax breaks for showers in workplaces to enable bike commuting
      -Raising gas prices
      -Raising vehicle registration taxes
      -Investing in sidewalks to make foot traffic a more attractive option for short trips.
      -Increasing enforcement against drunk driving
      -Congestion charging
      -Increasing incentives for multiple-occupancy vehicles, including dedicated lanes
      -Well designed BRT
      -Increased capacity on the metro
      -Improved bus transit
      -Enhanced law enforcement on bus transit
      -Integrated ticketing to allow seemless modal transfers between buses and metro
      -Tax incentives for flexi-time working to avoid rush hour congestions
      -Improved broadband to enable telecommuting
      -Finishing the ombrillo on the cota mil
      -Finishing the cota-mil-autopista-del-este loop west of Avenida Baralt
      -Building a bypass from La Victoria to Barlovento to allow truck traffic to move between Western Venezuela and Eastern Venezuela without having to drive straight through caraqueños’ afternoon commute.
      -Building parallel alternate routes to the Libertador/Fco de Miranda axis.
      -Pedestrianizing more of El Centro
      -Building a second tunnel to Vargas state
      -Expanding the Panamericana to Los Teques to 4 lanes

      Nope, nobody has had any different ideas. It’s definitely better to make it impossible to park. Cuz, y’know, that has the added bonus of driving everybody crazy, wasting road space on cars moving slowly looking for a place to park, wasting everybody’s time, and polluting more.

      • Any fix to improve traffic flow or increase efficiency in car transport will only be a temporary fix. The “problem” here is the growing population and rising prosperity.

        Bike lanes will be part of the solution once traffic has been reduced enough to make biking enjoyable. The only way to reduce traffic is to discourage the use of cars entirely, and the best way of doing that is expanding public transport.

        • A little bit OT but: could you send me an URL with sources about rising prosperity. I am PARTICULARLY interested in how real income has increased since 2008. Real sources, please. Thanks.

          • Sorry, man, wrong URL. There is no real stuff there. It’s about the oil boom consequences (CAP on steroids but with less effect), there is a very disputable table about GINI. I want an independently verified source about how the average PURCHASING power has increased since 2009.
            As that is OT, send it please to desarrollo.sostenible.venezuela at gmail dot com. Thanks

          • Economy growing, poverty declining. employment rising, guaranteed pensions and child support, national affordable housing industry.

            Prosperity cannot be measured by a single metric.

          • Several months ago I downloaded World Development Indicators Databank (World Bank) . The data that fits your request would appear to be
            GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2005 international $) [PPP=purchasing power parity] [Kep, I know you are familiar with PPP, but not all readers are.]
            Raw data:
            Latin America Venezuela
            1999 8,083 9,360
            2009 9,701 11,315
            2011 10,520 11,258

            1999-2011 % increase in GDP per capita, PPP
            Latin America 29.30%
            Venezuela 19.80%

            2009-2011 per capita increase
            Latin America 8.40%
            Venezuela -0.50%
            In spite of a huge increase in the price of oil, Venezuela has not performed as well as Latin America has during this time.
            Download the data and have fun.At least as much as a data geek can have fun…

          • I dunno about that. Availability of toilet paper should rank pretty high on the prosperity metrics.

            As posted above, real gains economically have been nominal at best and generally lagged behind other neighboring economies. You aren’t increasing prosperity and wiping out poverty when you can’t wipe your behind.

          • Texano,

            Thanks for the links. Comparing Venezuela with the rest of Latin America is indeed a great way to show Yoyo a thing or two.
            I knew about the data but I wanted to let Yoyo explain his “reasoning stream”.
            It is really amazing. He definitely does not have a grasp of how things work. He has been educated to repeat slogans.
            “Economic growth” means nothing by itself (specially if we plot that growth against oil price increases). Employment rising is rubbish if figures are massaged. As for affordable housing: what does he mean about that?
            I saw some numbers about what the average worker could buy in 1998 and now. We are now even worse than then in spite of the longest oil boom we have had in our history.

            Chavistas and useful idiots mentioned a lot United Nations Development Index.
            First of all: Venezuela is likely to have massaged its data, specially in the area of education. But even if we took this data at face value: it turns out that since 1998 (and at least until 2011) Venezuela, in spite of “increasing” its index, was overtaken by two other Latin American countries and overtook none. Thus: in the middle of the oil boom others didn’t have, they are overtaking us.

          • From the World Bank data I cited below, from 2008 to 2011 there was a reduction of 5.2% in GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2005 international $). ($11,878 in 2008 to $11,258 in 2011)

      • There is a bike lane being built along the Guaire between Las Acacias and Los Chaguaramos. Right beside its concrete bank and under the Fajardo expressway (that is, a place whith a number of shanty towns). That does not bode well for bikers (I rarely saw a pedestrian in the former sidewalk, let alone a bicycle), and it’s making even more difficult traffic access to and from UCV’s parking lots and stadiums.

        • That bike lane is just crazy, they reduced from two lanes to one the oncoming traffic from Los Chaguaramos where a lot of public transportation passes, thus, when the bus picks or leaves passengers at the stop, all the traffic is stopped.

          • I hate to focus on a single fact -instead of the bigger picture, as both GEHA and Quico have done-, but I really, really, really dislike that bike lane.

      • Those are some nice ideas.
        The key: “Enhanced law enforcement on transit. Period”
        Anarchy and impunity on the streets is worsening the situations of traffic. Tickets for infractions should really hit the pocket, so people stop commiting them. There’s too much anarchy on the streets, and law enforcement corruption (“matraqueo”) isn’t helping either.
        Also, expansion of Metro is crucial. Finishing Caracas-Guarenas, Caracas-Los Teques, even planning Caracas-El Hatillo is necessary.

      • Uyy so much to do. I remember Zapata saying one time, that if you put another car in the city it will block the circulation, nobody could move back and forth, and eventually people will have to leave the car just there where they found it, like a modern ruin.

        • D-Day
          by Otrova Gomas
          A couple of days earlier, I had the feeling that the traffic reports on the radio were showing uncommon concern. I seem to remember one of the chopper guys saying he’d never seen so many cars in one place. But really, it all happened on February 24th.

          At 9 a.m., the massive traffic jam from Caricuao bumped up into the one from Altamira, while the tailback on Plaza Venezuela practically cut off the flow of cars from the University, whose drivers got desperate and started trying to flee towards the highway via downtown. That might have worked, except the tailback from Universidad Avenue had blocked the highway in both directions.

          A number of desperate drivers then struck off for the Norte-Sur, but the congestion on Nueva Granada Avenue, caused by the gridlock in El Paraiso produced by the cars that were fleeing the jam in Caricuao, ended up blocking every route into and out of Central Caracas.

          At 10:30, after a truck overturned on the way into the La Guaira highway tunnel, a rubberneckers’ crash on the way up into Caracas shut down traffic between the city and the coast forever. We have to acknowledge that people, driven crazy by the hot sun beating down on them, ended up making everything worse by clogging the breakdown lane as they tried to turn around and head back, making it impossible for tow-trucks to reach the scene and try to patch things up somehow.

          Meanwhile, back in Caracas, the cars coming from the Cota Mil got boxed in on the eastern end because gridlock on the East-side highway had set off an unprecedented jam on the Francisco de Miranda Avenue, which in turn got blocked on the west by the traffic jams from Chacaito, la Libertador and the end of Casanova Avenue, and to the east by the collapse of the Altamira overpass (que tiempos aquellos!), which buckled under the weight of the cars stranded on it.

          I remember that the Prados del Este Highway, crammed full of desperate drivers, ended up gridlocked from Chacao to the Prados del Este roundabout, where furious drivers tried to turn back without realizing that they would end up locked into a circle formed by the cars that were trying to escape through Alto Hatillo from the jams in El Cafetal and Chuao as well as the desperados fleeing Baruta.

          At 11:00 a.m., with the entire city clogged and becoming a bedlam of cars trying to turn back, it started to rain. When Catia flooded, traffic on Urdaneta Avenue shut down completely, setting off panic in San Bernardino, San José and La Pastora. Crazed drivers tried to get out by driving on the sidewalks and traffic isles, even if it meant mowing down trees, but the deep puddles that started to form all over the city closed down every escape route.

          By 3:30 p.m., the city of Caracas was completely gridlocked without the slightest possibility of movement anywhere. To make matters worse, a bus accident in Tazón shut off passage through the mountains to the South, after the tailback from the Valle-Coche highway ran into the one from the East-side highway.

          At first, traffic wardens and motorcyclists tried to help out in emergency cases, but the desperation of people trying to flee through any gap, even if it meant driving over smaller cars, formed an automotive barricade over every nook and cranny that made it impossible even for bikes to get through.

          At 4:55, the bikes were abandoned just like hundreds of cars had been. The army overflew the city and the president improvised a cadena from the jam in La Carlota, calling for calm and promising to work things out somehow. But the suppressed sobs in his voice made it impossible to believe him. There was no hope.

          Foreign experts declared it impossible to get traffic moving again, explaining that the streets had morphed into one immense traffic jam that circled back on itself again and again like a snake. The only chance to get any movement, according to a Ministry of Transport communiqué, would involve getting 50,000 cars to reverse at the same time, but that would inevitably just mean replicating the jam backwards.

          Worst of all was the irresponsible attitude of thousands of drivers who, at 3 in the morning, abandoned their cars. Some even locked the doors to make sure they didn’t get stolen.

          It was the worst night in memory. The honking horns of idiots, the carbon monoxide, the smoke, the gasoline vapors and the high lead concentrations caused the first fatalities towards 5 in the morning.

          Within two days, the exodus started. Still not quite able to believe the official declaration that it was impossible to move that inferno of cars, people started to abandon the city. The absence of supplies turned it into a dead city almost overnight.

          Millions of people began the greatest migration in the history of time, taking nothing more than what they could carry in their arms.

          Within six days, the city was completely abandoned. It had become the exclusive preserve of hundreds of thousands of vehicles forming a horrific queue of luxury junk. A ghost city populated only by a handful of very patient and extremely inattentive drivers who, never noticing the exodus, waited patiently for traffic to get going.

  1. It’s actually not true to say that there are “multiple reasons behind this problem.” There is one reason behind this problem: price controls. Price controls are enough to account for shortages, whether it’s of corn flour, toilet paper or parking spots.

    In the absence of price controls, all the GMVV building in the world wouldn’t displace significant amounts of parking. Given the opportunity, land owners would shift urban land to use as parking lots, and would continue to do so until the expected marginal return from building one additional parking space equalized with the expected return from devoting the same space to office or home or commercial space construction.

    Some economic phenomena are hard to explain. Some call for complex, multi-layered, nuanced explanations that call on multiple factors. Shortages, by contrast, are extremely easy to explain. Where you have price controls, you have persistent shortages. Where you don’t, you don’t.

      • Are all shortages equal? Production of flour has other limits than increase of space.
        Isn’t there more competition for space in an city enclosed by mountains than for flour production in a much larger space?

    • Several building in Chacao converted some of their parking space into office space, because they can get a lot more money from leasing them as offices because of the control. No one is constructing a new parking garage, because is not profitable because of the controls. Also, the price of gas also ammounts for the excessive use of cars in Caracas.

      • Several weeks ago there was a CC post on cars per capita and gasoline use, comparing Venezuela with Latin America. The number of cars per population in Venezuela was about average compared with the rest of Latin America, but gasoline use was much higher. Conclusion: because gasoline is so cheap, there has been much less replacement of 1970s gas guzzlers in Venezuela than in other countries.

  2. At least part of Caracas trafic problem are due to its geography , Caracas is spread like a snake over a long narrow valley hemmed in between two mountain ranges , over a long but narrow axis so if you want to move from one point to the other very likely you have to move transverse accross a big part of the city to do so, this is not the case where the city is radially spread , like a spiders web .Then you have the Guaire and the Fajardo bisecting the city in two so that moving north south or vice versa means everyone must use one of the few choked crossing points to make the crossing . In the past when trafic approached choking point the only solution was the building of underground public transport , there isnt that much room for additional highways . Bikes dont work as in other flat cities because a big part of the city is spread over hilly areas where only the most athletic or young biker can climb. Some cities *London , Singapore ) have great public transport system and restrict the access of passenger cars to the most congested areas , improving overall traffic. The lack of parking space makes people ride part of the way on their cars , park where parking is still is possible and then connect to public transport ( like sometimes they do in large american cities) . Dont known if this can be adapted to Caracas .

  3. The one characteristic of Caracas that stands out for me over the last 30 years is thick coating of oily grime on everything. Streets, sidewalks, buildings, stray dogs, etc. are all a mess. Nothing can rust in that city. If I were in charge, I would have 100 teams of workers power washing all the streets once a month.

    How about an aerial cable car system to raise commuters above the traffic?
    How about bus only lanes or bus only streets?
    How about toll roads?

  4. Increased traffic is not a sign of increased prosperity, it’s just a sign of increased population. By that metric small, impoverished countries such as Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras must be booming because the last few times I’ve been there traffic has gotten nightmarish. Reducing parking, whether consciously or through sheer incompetence and neglect, will do nothing to curb traffic flow. When gasoline prices are essentially symbolic the incentive to drive outweighs the costs such as a lack of parking. Congestion pricing, increasing the fuel tax and offering alternatives are all great ways to reduce parking. Ever notice how if there’s no seats in a public establishment everyone still stands and the waiting room ends up twice as full as it would have otherwise? That’s what taking away parking does.

  5. Venezuela’s whole traffic system was and is a complete disaster. We have the BY FAR highest rate of mortal accidents in South America. In fact: only Thailand and the Dominican Republic have a worse rate than Venezuela. If you want to drive more safely, better do so in Nigeria or Afghanistan’s mountains.
    Everything is wrong, from prices to urban planning to law enforcement to car security control to driving licenses.

  6. The traffic problem in Caracas and other Venezuelan cities falls in the lap of Government responsibility. Since the Federal government has stripped civic authorities of authority. The lack of infrastructure development and planning across the nation is shocking in comparison with other nations. City planning and civic engineering are well thought out and highly valued in develloped nations. If there is a shortage of these people in Venezuela, and for political reasons consultants can’t be brought in, from the US for example : Why can experts not be brought in from perhaps Switzerland, or Japan. To fingir as some are, in these comments, that this is a deep and unfathomable challenge is absurd. What is lacking is political will, and this falls directly in the lap of quasi president Maduro.

  7. Caracas traffic is the egalitarian pinnacle of socialism. Chavista, non-Chavista, rich, poor, educated, unschooled, military, civilian, member of AN or not, dead or alive, no one avoids traffic. Even military planners have to add a few days to any deployment due to traffic problems.

    There now, doesn’t that give you a warm feeling about 21st Century Socialism?

  8. OT, what about the claim by some Chavista yahoo that the shortage of toilet paper is due to people eating more? Does eating more translate into using more toilet paper? I would think that regardless of how many loaves you pinch, you would need the same square footage of paper. This calls for a scientific analysis. Please get on it (no videos though).

  9. Big difference between where I live and Caracas, when it comes to parking: here, parking structures are easily the lowest cost-high return uses you devise for land in the downtown area. Beyond maintenance costs and cheap labor, once they are built, there’s typically around a 90% GP on the damn things on a monthly basis.

    Of course, the prices aren’t fixed. Every time the city/county/state addresses the issue by instituting some fee, shockingly enough, the garages just pass it along ot the consumer. Kind of a racket, but, eh, not a lot of other options.

    As for Caracas, up the prices of gas and a lot would change regarding the Venezuelan car culture.

  10. And let’s not talk about getting mugged in traffic jams, you need to be driving a tank to be safe in a red light, but hey, I guess it’s the revolutionary way of getting people to drive less.

    • Progress in the red, very red revolution has led to people progressing through the red, very red, lights. It is all part of the Bolivarian process.

  11. Of all the low-quality ways to use city space, parking lots are about the worst. By aggravating sprawl and traffic congestion, they only compound the dependence on private cars, creating a vicious cycle. Caracas could do lots of things to reduce auto dependency, and therefore the demand for parking spaces. The first and best would be to quit paying motorists to drive, but the government lacks the courage for this.


  12. yoyo
    Economy growing, poverty declining. employment rising, guaranteed pensions and child support, national affordable housing industry.Prosperity cannot be measured by a single metric.

    I have already disposed of “economy growing,” where World Bank stats show that during Chavismo, per capita income growth lagged considerably behind the rest of Latin America, in spite of the substantial increase in oil income for Venezuela.

    Let us now deal with national affordable housing industry. Several months ago Quico had a very informative graph at Gran Mision Mad Rush to Catch Up After Years of Broken Promises. While Quico’s graph compared housing construction per year for Chavismo versus Fourth Republic, he did not translate this into a housing construction per capita per year stat.
    From the link Quico supplied, I got concrete numbers, which agree- not surprisingly- with Quico’s graph.
    Housing Construction per year
    1979-1998 65,871
    1999-2012 53,481

    To translate this into a housing construction per capita stat per year, I went to the same World Book link where I got the economy figures.
    Average population for 1979-1998: 19,043,171
    Average population for 1999-2011 26,575,846
    The World Bank data doesn’t give population for 2012, but by extrapolating 2011’s growth for 2012, one can come up with an average population for 1999-2012: 26,801,060
    Not much difference.

    When this is translated into Housing Units constructed per year per 100,000 population, we get:

    1979-1998 346
    1999-2012 200 [using pop average 1999-2012]
    1999-2012 201 [using pop average 1999-2011]

    Once again, metrics show that Chavismo comes up short. What a surprise.

    As A Barreda’s comment at the Gran Mision link show, the recent surge in housing construction has a number of very poorly constructed housing units. So the recent surge in housing construction has to be taken with a considerable grain of salt.

  13. Are serious? What about pushing for more reliable and safe public transportation? The ONLY way traffic will improve in Caracas is when people leave their cars at home and start walking, riding bikes, using the Metro and buses for their daily life. This city became the hellhole it is because its (un)planners decided to make a city for cars instead of people.


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