City Council approves plans for 400 parking meters in West Campus

Allie Kolechta

A West Campus neighborhood association could try and install up to 400 new parking meters in the area after City Council approved an ordinance Thursday.

City Council passed a resolution that sets up a process for neighborhood associations to install parking meters and use a little more than half of the profits for infrastructure improvement and to promote alternative modes of transportation. Neighborhood organizations that wish to install meters and create a parking benefit district must hold a meeting so that community members can vote on the proposed district before it goes to the director or to council.

The council passed the resolution unanimously at yesterday’s meeting, said Matt Parkerson, executive assistant in the office of councilman and sponsor of the ordinance Chris Riley. The ordinance requires that a representative of a neighborhood organization that wishes to apply for a parking benefit district file an application with the director of the Austin Department of Transportation and then with the City Council.

Many members of the Central Austin Neighborhood Planning Advisory Committee, a group of representatives from neighborhoods with heavy student populations, including the University Area Partners, support installing parking meters. UAP, a group of churches, realtors and other groups with stakes in West Campus, aims to have about 400 parking meters installed in the area, said John Lawler, a member of CANPAC. While 51 percent of net funds from the meters are required to be set aside for improvements in the district, the amount of money that will be made from the meters will not make much of a dent, he said.

“The models for it are based upon typical sidewalks, while we have large pedestrian avenues and bicycle lanes,” Lawler said. “The phrase we’ve been using is ‘You’re just spitting in the ocean.’ It’s not going to make that big of a difference.”

Students can fight any proposal that UAP makes before it even reaches the council, Lawler said. Even if it can’t be stopped at the public forum, they can follow it to the council, he said.

“We have never heard or sensed that the majority would be in support of parking meters in West Campus,” he said. “We’re working off that assumption. When we held a town hall last session and brought up the subject, every student in the room was against it.”

CANPAC and the UAP believe that creating a parking benefit district in the West Campus area will make parking garage prices more competitive and contribute to improved lighting in West Campus, which will cut down on nighttime crime, said Brian Donovan, a member of CANPAC and University Area Partners. It may take years until any improvements are made, but eventually the meters would fund West Campus infrastructure including improved bike and pedestrian lanes, he said.

“There are students who have argued angrily that it’s a tax on students, but it’s a tax on drivers to make bikers and pedestrians safer,” Donovan said. “I think it’s fair enough for students to be angry, but the reality is that these improvements cost money.”