UT Parking Strategies Committee Report

Parking around the UT campus when classes are in session is never easy, but it's also going to get more expensive soon. Parking rates are set to go up on the UT Austin campus, and it's an increase that will continue for several years. Outgoing President Bill Powers asked a committee of faculty and administrators to look into how to get more money for the university out of parking, and not surprisingly, the answer was higher fees.

The increases vary based on which permit you get, but it is an increase across the board. Let's say you have an "F Garage" permit, which currently costs $420 a year. Five years from now, that same permit will cost $588.  A "C" permit, for students parking in surface level lots, which is currently $120, will go up roughly $6 a year over the next five years, up to $150.

Advocates for the disabled are calling out drivers for parking illegally in handicapped spaces – and they now have both technology and government on their side.

A new app called Parking Mobility allows citizen volunteers to submit photos of handicapped parking violators directly to authorities. Today, the Travis County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to move forward with a six month pilot program allowing qualified volunteers to become deputies whose submissions can turn into citations. The current penalty for illegal parking in a handicapped space is a minimum fine of $500.

The City of Austin could remove off-street parking space requirements for developers who build some apartments smaller than 500 square feet – dwellings known as "micro-units." Advocates say it could encourage development of the micro-units along public transit corridors.

"We're talking about 300- or 400-square-foot apartments. Is there a market for that? In some cities, it looks like there has been," Council Member Bill Spelman said Tuesday during a council work session. "This is another way of simply reducing the cost. The whole thing is really about affordable housing." 

City code requires most residential developments to have at least one off-street parking space per unit. Council removed most of those requirements for downtown businesses last year.

This story has been corrected. See below.

The Travis County Commissioners Court discussed a proposal Tuesday that could cut individual permit parking for some downtown employees, replacing it with open, or "zoned," parking lot parking. 

The county aims to eliminate a three year-long waitlist for parking that has 320 employees still angling for a spot.

Travis County auditor Nikki Riley told the commissioners the county pays $120,000 a year for additional spaces so certain employees can have reserved spots. "We are firmly convinced that if we go to zoned parking, we would be able to eliminate the waiting list," she said.

Photo by KUT News

It’s festival season, y’all – and with autumn weather cooling the city, it’s the perfect time to get outside and enjoy a good book, film, or concert.

There are a number of exciting events this weekend, including the Texas Book Festival, the Austin Film Festival, a Halloween Children's Concert by the Austin Symphony Orchestra, the Run for the Water 5K and 10-mile race, and the 5th Annual Pittie Pride parade and festival ("pittie" is apparently short for pitbull dogs).

While this means that this weekend will be a great opportunity to pack up the family and head out for some quality fun, it also means that thousands of people will be pouring into the city. You can expect ample road closures in and around the Capitol and Congress Avenue area.

Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

City Council's got a full plate today, with everything from parking, rental registries, ride-shares, a possible closure of Auditorium Shores and a measure that could make Austin the first city to offer paid parental leave for city employees.

The Austin City Council may make a decision on Thursday that could alter the future of Rainey Street.

It's close to impossible to find parking in the trendy lower downtown district. With so many new restaurants and bars in the neighborhood, the popularity of Rainey Street grows alongside the difficulty of getting in and out by car.

A group of investors (70 Rainey Street LP) which own several Rainey Street lots has presented the city several bids to purchase a property at 64 Rainey St.for a multi-story parking garage. 70 Rainey Street LP is currently planning to use its existing lots to build a 31-story mixed use project.

The city is mulling three options: Selling the lot for $100,000, plus 30 parking spaces and their revenue;  for $400,000, plus 20 parking spaces and their revenue; or for $1.2 million and no parking spaces.

Congress for the New Urbanism - Central Texas chapter

Finding a parking spot in downtown Austin can sometimes be a challenge. Today, for Worldwide PARK(ing) Day, there will be two fewer spaces – but supporters say the spaces’ transformation serves a greater purpose.

Two parking spaces on Congress Avenue between Sixth Street and Seventh Street, outside the Royal Blue Grocery, have been temporarily converted into a “parklet”— where, instead of parking, people are  invited to use the space as a park-like area to enjoy lunch, read a newspaper, or even just sit and chat.

The parklet conversion and local appreciation of Worldwide PARK(ing) Day is being overseen by the Central Texas chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism, which seeks to promote smarter civic design. It notes that Worldwide PARK(ing) Day started in 2005, when a San Francisco design firm converted a single metered parking space into a temporary pocket park.

At a meeting tonight, the Urban Transportation Commission will hear a presentation on potential changes to Austin’s valet parking ordinance.

Currently, a valet business can lease the use of a public parking spot for $250 a year. And approximately 180 parking spots are used for valet parking downtown. But as the city grows and parking becomes more scarce, calls have emerged to reconsider the fee, which hasn’t been modified since 1999.

Talks between the city and valet operators have been going on since August of last year. Both the city and the valet operators favor a change to an hourly rate. 

Nathan Bernier, KUT Staff

Parking is becoming a problem at Zilker Park.

The Austin Police Department is trying to curb citations and towings at large events there like Blues on the Green, KGSR’s free biweekly concert event. The last concert saw 22 citations for illegal parking.

Police held a press conference today warning concert-goers to avoid tow-away zones like residential driveways, and stay off  lawns and high grass.

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

On some days, you might have more success finding buried pirate treasure than a parking spot in downtown Austin. Enter: iPhones.

Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

The City of Austin may soon install additional parking meters in the West Campus area.

University Area Partners, a West Campus coalition of businesses, property owners and neighbors, has requested that meters be installed to relieve traffic congestion in the area. Property owners say students and UT employees who park there causing a parking shortage. 

Brian Donovan, who chairs the association’s parking committee, says the meters will allow access for more drivers.

Photo courtesy of OTI America

You know when you want to park somewhere but you don’t know how much money to put in the meter? You’re like, “Geez, I should err on the safe side and buy an hour’s worth of time.” But then you’re back in 30 minutes. Frustrating! 

This new device should help with that. It’s a pre-paid in-vehicle parking meter by OTI America called EasyPark. You buy one online and then plug it into your computer and add money to it.

Then, when you want to park, you put it in your window and it charges you in 15 minutes increments until you get back and turn it off. You don’t need to fiddle with those new parking pay stations or put that sticker in your window or anything like that. The device beeps every minute so you don’t forget to turn it off when you get back. Because if you forget, it will keep charging you.

Shoup photo courtesy; parking photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

There’s no such thing as a free lunch – and no such thing as free parking, according to an influential author speaking in Austin today.

The Urban Transportation Commission and City Council Member Chris Riley are hosting a conversation this evening with Donald Shoup. Shoup’s 2005 book, The High Cost of Free Parking, argues that on-street parking is a valuable commodity in cities, and should be priced accordingly to cut down on traffic congestion and pollution.

KUT News spoke with Shoup this morning. He noted the University  of Texas campus was a perfect example of some of the arguments he’s made.

View Larger Map

It wouldn’t be a weekend in Austin without a few street closures, but this one’s lasting a little longer than most. The city advises West 34th Street, between Medical Parkway and Lamar Boulevard will be closed for three months, as the city repairs pipes under the stretch of street.

The city has more information on street closures on their Special Events website.

Photo by Jessie Wang for KUT News

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.

Photo by Jessie Wang for KUT News

If you like to frequent downtown businesses on the evenings of Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights, you’ll now have to pay until midnight for street parking. That's one of the changes to parking meter hours taking effect today.

The old schedule had people paying during weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  Here are the new meter hours:

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The extension of downtown parking meters was already delayed once, from August 1 to September 6, because of delays in equipment orders. But now politics could push that date back even further.

The new rules would extend downtown parking meter hours to run from 8 am until midnight from Monday through Saturday. Currently, meters run from 8:30 am until 5:30 pm.

The extension would also affect meters throughout Austin. Outside the downtown core, meters would run from 8 am until 6 pm.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The City of Austin will install 70 new parking spaces of the “back-in angle” variety as part of the ongoing road improvements on South Congress Avenue. Some drivers have insisted on backing in to head-on spaces for years, but the new parking spaces will be specifically designed to do so.

Back-in angle parking is supposed to be safer than head-on parking because it provides better visibility. Car doors would no longer open into oncoming traffic or bicycle lanes. Unloading the trunk or dealing with car seats would also be easier because the back of the car is at the curb, further removed from traffic.

Get used to seeing these signs if you spend time downtown. The city is temporarily installing 44 of them to direct people to off-street parking. Staff hopes it will help reduce what they call "extraneous traffic circulation." In other words, people circling the block looking for a spot on the street.