Study: Fixing Austin’s downtown parking problems

Parking in Austin (KXAN photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The only other topic that seems to be talked about more than Austin’s traffic is the parking problem downtown.

There’s no one solution to fixing those ever-evolving problems but, thanks to months of data-gathering for a parking study, there may be some solutions on the horizon.

A year ago, the Downtown Austin Alliance hired Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates to develop strategies for making parking convenient downtown.

Last week, the firm presented its findings – 19 recommendations centered around restructuring the parking system and an emphasis on how drivers pay for parking.

At the top of the list: Performance-based parking. The idea focuses on finding and creating more spaces available to drivers on the outer edges of downtown by adjusting the costs based on supply and demand. For example, the prices would be higher during peak daytime and nighttime hours the closer you get to the core of downtown.

“One of the things you will see is this idea of a downtown circulation, which is a little bit of an element of transit and it’s an element of maybe keeping people parked on the edges of downtown to alleviate the congestion in the center core,” said DAA President, Dewitt Peart.

Shared private parking is another top recommendation. The pilot program shares parking with owners of private parking structures who have unused spaces.

This map shows an inventory of off-street parking in downtown Austin. (Downtown Austin Alliance photo)
This map shows an inventory of off-street parking in downtown Austin. (Downtown Austin Alliance photo)

Peart says the recommendations are not necessarily to fix parking, but to address congestion.

“Currently there is about 6.3 million feet under development and looking into the future, we expect a lot more development so the idea is to have a better plan as to how we are going to better manage parking and particularly congestion downtown,” he said.

The study also pointed to the importance of curb-side parking. Officials say there should be curbside parking available when and where you need it and local businesses won’t have to compete for parking for their customers.

“In the analysis, we had cameras stationed around downtown and the findings were people were coming into the city early, into downtown and parking and their cars were staying in that parking space all day and they were violating the time constraints. Some cars staying there four to five to six hours a day,” Peart said.

Drivers who live outside of Austin but visit downtown say parking can be a nightmare. Some say adding parking would be helpful for those that don’t live near the city limits.

“I think making it more car friendly would bring more people down here. I think there’s a push to get it more pedestrian friendly and anti-car but unless you live down here you are shielded from coming downtown,” on Austin driver said.

Peart says better management, enforcement and signage detailing pricing and which lots are full or vacant can help some of the problems.

The next step is to figure out what recommendations can be implemented first. Some of the projects can begin within the first six months, once the plan is in place. The others are more long-term.

A final implementation plan will be presented to the public in October.

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