Parking hassles in the neighborhood stem from varied enforcement and disjointed rules that favor some residents at the expense of nearby neighbors. The city is proposing to help with these problems through the creation of a Parking Transportation Management District. This program has been used successfully to manage parking in popular areas of Austin.
Before acting, the city is seeking input from the neighborhoods. Below are questions asked by neighbors regarding the proposed parking reform for South Congress and nearby streets. A response by the City of Austin Parking Enterprise Manager, Jason Redfern, follows.
- Why does the new parking garage at Music Lane not provide free parking for customers or employees of businesses on South Congress? Has the City of Austin negotiated with them to do so?
- City code requires that businesses provide parking. Does this parking have to be free or can it be paid parking?
- Who enforces parking requirements during development of new businesses?
- Does the new valet parking at Academy and South Congress utilize a parking garage or street parking?
- How are city parking rules enforced for businesses like Madewell or Vuka?
- The proposed parking district will generate revenue for neighborhood mobility improvements. Why can’t funds from Proposition A and B pay for these improvements instead?
COA response from Jason Redfern:
Affordable Parking Program: The City of Austin has an Affordable Parking Program where garage operators/owners are invited to participate in offering reduced parking rates during off-peak hours to our service industry workers. When I say invited I mean that we cannot legally mandate or compel participation. It is a completely voluntary program that provides advantages (price breaks) for those who need to store their vehicle for longer than a few hours. It also allows businesses to inform people of untapped parking supply during off-peak times. There are approximately 30 garages that are onboard, with roughly 400 participants.
My staff contacted Music Lane, Guero’s and the SOCO Hotel about joining our program. All declined, showing no interest in participating at the time. We do, however, have some availability at the One Texas Center which is listed on our program website.
While an Affordable Parking Program for district employees is desirable, you have to keep in mind that there are not as many opportunities (off-street supply) in the SOCO District as there are downtown. Which is why we are considering Nelson Nygaard’s recommendation to permit employees to park within adjacent residential parking zones near their workplace.
Enforcement Issues: As we’ve discussed previously, each department has its jurisdictional authority/area of responsibility. Each of the Departments listed below can be contacted by calling Austin 3-1-1 to initiate the review of issues and actions.
- Austin Code Department (ACD): The enforcement of Land Development Code (LDC) is largely the responsibility of the ACD. An example of an issue that they would address could be a land or business owner not providing the number of parking spaces shown on their approved Site Plan, which could potentially be a LDC violation.
- Austin Fire Department (AFD): Allegations of occupancy or venue load limit violations would be reviewed and addressed by the Special Events Unit with AFD. I was informed that they would either need to witness the issue at the time of the alleged violation or have an affidavit from a Code Officer certifying their findings.
- Development Services Department (DSD): For additional information on specific site developments and why certain site plan approvals were granted, please contact DSD to speak with the reviewer or review consultant. They are aware of developmental overlays and LDC where certain conditions and exemptions may be warranted. If it’s a newer or ongoing Site Development, you can visit the ABC Portal to identify the reviewer, within the various disciplines. Or if it’s an older or existing site development, you may use this link to identify the consultant for specific review questions.
- Valet: Regarding your question about valet services at South Congress and Academy, the zone is not active and the signs have been covered since December 8th, 2020. If it was an active zone, they would be required to park in an off-street facility and provide proof of the number of parking spaces, signed agreement, etc.
Parking and Transportation Management District (PTMD): If City Council authorizes the creation of a PTMD, a portion of the parking fees would be set aside for transportation related purposes. Those purposes could be wide and varying and not necessarily be related to any of the current bond project programming. PTMD dollars could be leveraged to help fill in potential gaps or take on projects not already identified.
Parking Revenue: As we’ve discussed previously, the Parking Enterprise and all of our activities are funded through parking and permit fees collected and not General Fund, sales or real estate taxes.
Metering Residential Streets: We do not plan on metering residential streets. What’s been discussed so far is paid parking on the major thoroughfares and residential parking/employee permit parking on the side streets. Even if Council authorizes the PTMD, we do not plan on metering anything until we see greater signs of recovery and turnover issues start re-emerging in the SOCO study area.
Charging For Private Parking: I can find no authority or governance that allows the City of Austin to dictate whether a business or land owner can or cannot charge for parking. There is nothing in City Code that I’m aware of that would prohibit a business from charging for parking, even though it’s been approved on a site plan.
Free Parking: Lastly, the concept of free parking incentivizes people to drive alone, via their single occupant vehicle. And given a choice between free garage parking and free street parking, people will typically choose street parking because it is closer and less confined with fewer frictional elements.
Managed parking where off-street parking costs less than on-street should help right-size the supply. Long-term parking sessions are best held in private lots and garages leaving street parking where short-term parking sessions occur, for safety, mobility, turnover and customer convenience.