City Council delays implementation of longer parking meter hours

Diego Cruz

The City Council may once again postpone the extension of downtown parking meter hours, this time until at least January.

Council members Kathie Tovo and Laura Morrison will present a measure next week to delay implementation to allow for discussion on the impact the ordinance could have on downtown employees, Tovo said.

Current rules dictate parking meters operate citywide from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. downtown, said city of Austin Transportation Department spokeswoman Leah Fillion.

The new rules would extend citywide metered hours until 6 p.m. and include Saturdays, while downtown hours would extend to midnight, Fillion said.

The extension was originally voted on in March and was planned for implementation on Aug. 1, but was delayed to Sept. 6 and has endured opposition from the public, Tovo said.

“I’m concerned because I’m hearing from many downtown workers that this is going to be an additional cost for them,” she said.

Tovo said the delay would allow the council to revisit concerns that may not have been heard before the ordinance was originally voted on.

Additional time may also allow the council to find alternative solutions that will help mitigate any negative impact before the new rules are implemented, Tovo said.

Fillion said the idea of extending the hours is to create turnover in parking spaces so that visitors will be able to find parking through the later hours of the day.

Currently much of the parking spaces on-street are taken by employees who leave their cars parked until their shift ends later on at night, she said.

“Our ultimate goal is to reduce the condition downtown and try to make parking easier to find and encourage alternate modes of transportation,” Fillion said.

Extending hours for parking meters would persuade long-term visitors to park off-street and leave street parking to customers who will only stay for a few hours at a time, she said.

Fillion said there are more than 14,000 parking spaces downtown and that people often don’t realize this because many of them are in off-street garages.

The city is working with parking garages to provide downtown business employees with spaces at a discounted price or approximately $50 per month, she said.

Councilwoman Morrison said while the proposal was originally meant to increase parking turnover for businesses downtown it ended up going beyond only businesses and being applied to the entire area.

“I think that you could certainly adjust and diminish the hours or where it’s actually implemented as opposed to just all downtown,” Morrison said.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s spokesman Matt Curtis said the council has expected to make changes before implementing the new rules since it originally voted to extend the hours.