Austin increasing enforcement on drivers who ‘feed the parking meter’

Signs on the side of parking meters warn of extended parking (ATD 2017)
Signs on the side of parking meters warn of extended parking (Austin Transportation Department Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Parking downtown can be frustrating. Spaces are limited for the amount of drivers heading to the area.

The city of Austin says they are now enforcing a rule that has always been in place and it’s catching some drivers off guard. It has to do with the amount of time you park in a spot.

Mike Bewley makes regular trips into downtown Austin from his home in Driftwood for work and often finds himself using on street parking. “I paid for the initial three hours and then was going to be there longer, so I re-upped my time. ”

Many drivers do this when parking for an extended amount of time in downtown Austin, but Mike got a ticket for it. “I had gotten the ticket because I had extended my time and that was equivalent of ‘feeding’ the meter and that wasn’t allowed.”

Mike used ParkX to extend his time an app that allows users to pay for parking remotely using their devices. The app will chime when a driver’s parking session is up and ask users if they want to  extend their parking session.

Bewley explains that’s where he feels the confusion is for most people who use the ParkX app. “You’re only allowed to park in a parking spot for 3 hours. I said the sign says 3 hours max, but — me and a lot of other folks — interpreted that as you could just pay for 3 hours at a time.”

The city of Austin says they have always cited for extending past the regular limit on a meter, but only recently have increased enforcement since a parking study completed earlier this year identified the issue of some cars staying in parking spaces for more than 10 hours.

ParkX users receive notifications when their time is about to expire so that they can move their vehicles or add more time until they reach the posted parking time limit. (Mike Bewley/2017)
ParkX users receive notifications when their time is about to expire so that they can move their vehicles or add more time until they reach the posted parking time limit. (Mike Bewley/2017)

The main purpose of on-street parking is to accommodate motorists seeking “short-term” convenience.  Regulatory time limits are set for each meter, to encourage turnover of parking spaces so that other motorists can find convenient parking.

By ordinance, which has been in place for several years (§ 12-3-5 – TIME LIMITS ON PAID PARKING) it is illegal to “feed” the meters, which is why they encourage motorists to seek off-street parking accommodations for longer term visits.

They also say it is equally possible to feed the meter using either the application from your office or physically revisiting a pay station and buying another pay receipt and displaying it in the windshield.  In both cases, there are prompts in writing, in the app and on the meter that direct people to observe hour maximums.

Signs do say extending parking past the time limit is illegal, but Mike feels it could be clarified. “The sign doesn’t exactly spell it out and you’ve given me this great tool to use on my phone that actually prompts me… to say ‘do you want to extend your time?'”

The city of Austin says at this time there are no plans to revise the option of extending a parking on the app after a driver reaches their max time. Mike feels a warning would have been helpful, “That’s their policy, right? Let’s be clear about how the policy is going to be enforced.”

The city of Austin does offer an affordable parking program for downtown workers that need to park between the hours of 6 p.m. to 5 a.m., using city facilities that have garage space going under-utilized after regular business hours.

It costs $35 per month. The Transportation Department receives no credit for fines paid due to citations written they say they are working to increase the turnover of premium on-street space and encourage drivers who are parking long-term to seek a garage or lot alternative.

Drivers say this could be better clarified. (ATD/2017)
Drivers say the disclaimer about extended parking could be better clarified. (ATD/2017)

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