City expands pay-to-park app from West Campus to all of Austin

Forrest Milburn

Austinites wishing to park in public spaces throughout the city can now pay using their smartphones, following a successful pilot program of a pay-to-park app in the West Campus area.

Nearly two weeks ago, the city chose to expand ParkX, a smartphone application that allows users to pay for parking remotely and covers all city-owned metered parking spaces throughout Austin.

The application began in March as a pilot program in West Campus. City officials tested the app on students, the demographic most likely to test the app before its official release, according to Steve Grassfield, parking enterprise manager for the city. 

“That’s normally a good place for us to test things, especially an app,” Grassfield said. “If there were any issues or problems we might encounter, the students would help us pick up on those.”

After signing up for the app, users type in their locations — based on the zoning number and parking space — and select the amount of time they would like to reserve the space for, according to the ParkX website. The app also sends an alert warning the user that their reservation is five minutes from expiring and allows them to add to their time if necessary.

Grassfield said officials heard no complaints from students living in the West Campus area, with many app users praising the convenience of being able to adjust their parking time if they are held in class for too long or if something comes up.

“We knew that there are professors who make you stay overtime … and it can make things difficult, for sure,” Grassfield said.

Psychology junior Matthew Hanel, who has used a similar pay-to-park app in Houston, said the app could be beneficial for students.

“Paying for parking definitely sucks, but it definitely makes it easier to not get towed or fined,” Hanel said.

The app’s info was labeled onto existing parking meters that were installed around West Campus about five years ago, with no new additional parking meters expected to be installed, Grassfield said.

Currently, the city collects the entirety of all parking meter funds, with a small portion going towards reinvigorating the locations they serve. The ParkX app does not increase or decrease the amount of funding going back to the zoning areas around parking meters, Grassfield said. The parking meters along Rio Grande Street from 19th to 29th Street make up one particular area where construction improvements — such as newly planted trees and bike zones, lighting and bench installations — have been funded through the area’s parking meters.

Radio-television-film junior Karla Benitez said the funding from parking meters could help fix streets deep in West Campus that are the least maintained,

“Overall, just fix all the streets, because they’re horrible,” Benitez said. “The farther down you go, the worse the potholes are and the narrower the streets are.”