City introduces new parking system in West Campus

Bharath Lavendra

Austin motorists will soon have a new way to pay for parking in West Campus.

The Austin Transportation Department will be introducing a pay-by-phone parking service so users will never have to interact with a pay station.

Steven Grassfield, the Parking Enterprise manager with ATD, said the goal of the program was to make parking easier for the community. ATD is partnering with ParkX, a private application, that has implemented the pay-by-phone in other cities, such as Corpus Christi and El Paso.

“The app only takes two minutes to set up, and you’ll never have to visit a pay station,” Grassfield said. “The app even sends a text message or alert to you when your parking is about to expire and allows you to buy more time, all from your phone.”

Grassfield said ATD chose the West Campus neighborhood so students can help the city find issues with the app and system.

“Students are more adept with apps,” Grassfield said. “We will eventually roll out the system to the entire city, but students will help us find anything wrong and be able to give us feedback before we do so.”

Students found the concept useful, but had other concerns with parking in West Campus besides how they were paying for the meter.

Economics sophomore Darpan Bhatt said safety was his main qualm with parking near the University.

“Street parking is more risky when compared to parking in a garage,” Bhatt said. “I’ve heard of people getting their windows smashed and cars being damaged when they’ve parked deep into West Campus.”

Finance senior Puja Patel said she likes the pay-by-phone concept, but doesn’t predict its widespread use among students.

“I think it will help students a little but not much since a lot [of students] buy year-long parking passes [for garages],” Patel said. “But a lot of the street parking spaces are still filled up during the week, so I think it’ll
help overall.”

Patel also said she would like to see a feature that allows users to find open parking spaces.

Grassfield said the project will also benefit West Campus since some profits will go back into development of the area.

“West Campus is a parking benefit district,” Grassfield said. “This means that after city expenses are taken care of, 51 percent of the money goes to improve West Campus sidewalks and bike lanes.”