The Downtown Parking Controversy Continues

It's been an ongoing debate: when should downtown street parking be free and when should the City require payment?

For a long time, the City has operated meters from 8:30am - 5:30pm Monday - Friday. In March, the City Council voted to extend these hours to midnight downtown. One of the reasons for the change was a theory that downtown service workers were taking all of the evening parking and thus displacing paying customers. In reality, there is a ton of paid parking downtown so nobody is being turned away for a lack of a spot. even when an estimated 200,000 people were downtown for the peak day of SXSW, very few of the garages were full.

With paid parking, there is no new capacity created, just additional paid spots and fewer free spots. Eliminating free parking may help short-term evening parkers save some money, but it doesn't really help many people looking to park downtown. It does, however, generate lots of money for the City as well as additional ticket revenue.

Now, the Austin Chronicle is reporting that Kathie Tovo "and ally Laura Morrison – the only member to dissent on the admittedly unpopular change – will push to delay the pay parking expansion." Since the changes haven't yet taken effect, momentum is now building to stop the extension from becoming effective.

According to the Chronicle, "News that the change might be revisited came to the Hustle's attention via Austinites Against Metered Parking Extension Downtown, a new group opposing the change. In a press release, the group announced it "has secured the promises of Council Member Laura Morrison and newly elected Council Member Kathie Tovo, to cosponsor an agenda item to repeal, modify, or delay the meter extension ordinance."

Tovo tells us AAMPED has it right, mostly. "Laura Morrison and I are exploring the possibility of bringing forward a resolution to delay implementation of the parking changes until we can have a fuller public discussion, with Downtown workers and others we feel will be negatively impacted by the extension of parking hours," she says. "I believe that earlier decision was made without a full public discussion." The item's since been posted on council's July 28 draft agenda."

We'll see how the parking debate unfolds. Given that very few people benefit from the change, it is likely that opposition will continue to build.