More parking meters could be installed in some of Austin’s busier residential areas. City council approved a program today that would allow neighborhoods to set up so-called “parking benefits districts”. A portion of parking fees would pay for improvements that promote walking, cycling and using public transit, such as wider sidewalks, additional lighting and bike lanes.
The parking benefits districts could only be set up in an area with 96 or more parking spaces and only after a public notification process that includes mandatory community meetings. Parking fees first have to pay for the cost of the meters. Fifty-one percent of anything beyond that can go to street improvements.
One of the biggest proponents of the program is a coalition of West Campus-area businesses called University Area Partners (UAP). They worked with the city to set up a pilot program in 2006 along San Antonio Street, from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to West 26th Street.
The bulk of the money was used to install wider sidewalks, benches, new street lamps, and trees on Rio Grande Street from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to 29th Street. Some of the installations are still underway. Renovations to 23rd Street and the Renaissance Market on Guadalupe Street were also partly funded with money from those parking meters.
UAP’s Mike McHone wants to see the area expanded to include more parking meters in further north in West Campus. That will likely be met with disappointment by many University of Texas employees who park in the area for free. Waiting lists for a paid spot in a UT parking garage are up to two years long.
“I work here too. I don’t have parking. I pay the parking meter every day,” McHone told KUT News. “Why should the people who don’t have cars, ride bicycles or walk be subsidizing me through their taxes to be able to provide me free parking on city streets.”
You can learn more about parking benefits districts by checking out this PowerPoint presentation from the city.