Downtown Austin Alliance says drivers searching for parking leading to congestion

"We have people that drive in from La Grange or San Antonio or Leander and when they get here it takes them almost as long to find a parking place as it did to drive from La Grange," said David Kruger, owner of Kruger’s Jewelers on Congress Avenue.

Kruger's dad opened Kruger’s in 1939 downtown Austin.  A downtown that looks a little different than it does today.

"We had all of the big stores here, Sears and Montgomery Ward was here.  TG&Y, I mean it was a real -- there was not a vacant space on Congress Avenue.  But at the same time there was a lot of parking and people actually did used to take the bus back then," Kruger said.

Nowadays it's tough to park.  Dewitt Peart, CEO of the Downtown Austin Alliance says they're trying to do something about that.  They hired consulting firm Nelson/Nygaard to help figure out what.

"Part of what was found in this study was that 30% of the congestion that we're experiencing downtown is the result of people driving around looking for parking on the street," Peart said.

Peart says the consulting firm started work nearly a year ago.  They've come up with some recommendations about what the problems are and what to do.

"One of the abuses that we see: people coming into town in the morning and consuming that parking spot all day on the street.  That's not the best use of that parking," Peart said.

Peart says street-parking is often less expensive than off-street parking, even with fines.

"What we're finding is you know people will park and even if they get a parking ticket it will be cheaper for them to park with a parking ticket than it would be for them to park in a garage," Peart said.

One of the recommendations: shared parking that would support a number of businesses to help the smaller buildings that don't have parking.

Another idea is working with CapMetro.

"We've got parking facilities on the periphery of downtown that are not being used that could be very inexpensive parking, affordable parking and then having shuttles that bring workers into the city," Peart said.

An option for the long-term is demand pricing, Peart says.

"When there's higher demand you would adjust the prices so that's something that will be considered and the technology is there to do that," Peart said.

Right outside of Kruger's is a 15-minute customer service zone.  David Kruger says it really helps out his customers and people tend to abide by that 15-minute rule.  He says an easy solution for the city would be to put in more of those.

"At every intersection, all the way up and down Congress Avenue, on opposite corners have two 15-minute customer parking places and on the opposite corners have two 30-minute customer places," Kruger said.  "Yeah you'd have to police it just like you do anything else but at least least the city would look like they want to facilitate parking as opposed to just talking about it."

The Downtown Austin Alliance steering committee will be getting an implementation strategy in May.  Then it's in their hands to decide which recommendations to try.
Over the next six months they'll be working on some of the solutions and will issue a progress report about what they're doing in October.

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