Say goodbye to free downtown Austin parking on Wednesday nights

Parking pay station in downtown Austin (KXAN Photo/Erin Cargile)
Parking pay station in downtown Austin (KXAN Photo/Erin Cargile)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Enjoy it while you can. Free parking on Wednesday nights in downtown Austin is about to be a thing of the past.

Thursday, the Austin City Council voted to extend the metered time until midnight to match the paid parking times on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Now, drivers will have to pay to park from 8 a.m. to midnight on Wednesdays. Parking will remain free all day on Sundays, and after 6  p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays.

“I actually think it’s a good idea,” said Chris McMillan, who lives downtown.

He agrees with the city, that charging a fee will encourage more parking spots to open up on a night that’s getting busier downtown.

“I still go out and eat dinner on Wednesday night, and it is nice to have parking spots available if a car is necessary,” said McMillan. “It also helps and encourages people to use alternate means of transportation.”

The city would like those who work downtown or plan to spend an extended amount of time in one spot to use the long-term private lots or parking garages. “We get a lot of phone calls of people driving around the blocks trying to find parking,” said Malon Lemoins, general manager of Cru Food & Wine Bar on West 2nd Street.

He believes charging for parking one more night of the week might deter some people from coming to downtown on Wednesdays.

“People’s thought process about parking downtown is already — gives a little anxiety anyway, so changing that will, I think, just kind of add to it,” said Lemoins.

The restaurant’s event coordinator, Tracie Walker, uses the free Wednesday parking as a selling point for clients.

“If I can’t persuade them that it’s OK — you can find street parking for free — they might say no we’re going to go somewhere else that’s going to give us free valet,” said Walker, who says she has lost business because of the paid parking hours downtown.

Grayson Eudy feeds the pay station four days a week while working as a cook at a restaurant downtown. She calls the decision to extend paid parking a money grab, but the city says the decision is not about making more money.

“If it’s not about revenue why are you requesting more revenue?” said Eudy.

Her SUV is one vehicle that will not be moving until midnight. The city says the new Wednesday paid parking times will not take effect for a couple more months. They will be getting the word out and changing the signs. There will be a grace period at first. Parking attendants will start with warnings.

Click here for a real-time view of open parking spots in downtown Austin.

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