Downtown Austin Alliance presents 'Parking Strategy' to Mobility Committee

Parking in downtown Austin can be really hard work -- or maybe it's just luck come to think of it...
We ran into Cedric Mitchell after victoriously finding a spot.. "Oh it's a chore. I had to drive around about 15 minutes before I got someone to leave and then I zoomed in that space, because if you're not, someone else will get it," Mitchell said, Mitchell just needed to check his mailbox and pick up some coffee so he won't be there long but some drivers will take a metered spot and stay in it all day.

"What we found is that if people find a parking space they're not going to give it up.  We found locations on 6th street on 5th street, San Jacinto, people are parking 8, 9 10, 12 hours at a time and that is a big problem," said Phil Olmstead with Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates,

The firm been working on the Downtown Austin Alliance "Parking Strategy."

The firm says they reached out to the community, collected data and did a full inventory of downtown parking and they've come up with some recommendations.  Some long term, some are ready to go. 

He says there's not one silver bullet solution.

"You can't just build more parking, that's not going to do it," Olmstead said.

One of those ideas is called Performance-Based Management. "That's a fancy way of basically saying the city will raise and lower prices in response to demand," Olmstead said.

Not constant change though.

"Changing rates everyday, every hour that doesn't make sense.  What it would likely be is adjusting rates once or twice a year to try and find that sweet spot," Olmstead said. 

"I feel like that's a good idea, it will discourage people from saying 'hey I can just park here all day'" said Jocelyn Greves who works downtown. Greves pays for a private garage so she has a spot.  But if someone comes in for a meeting, they might be out of luck.

"Parking is very difficult, we do have kind of a partnership with another garage but it's based on availability so if that garage is full we basically have to tell our attendees, please park where you can find something," she said.

Speaking of garages, Olmstead says there are often spots available but drivers just don't know about them or can't easily get to them.

One idea is to have a park and ride shuttle pick drivers up at garages on the fringes of downtown and bring them further in...another idea is real-time signage that lets drivers know how full the garage is.

"So a sign in front of a parking structure saying 142 spaces available, even the amount of spaces by level of the structure," Olmstead said.

According to the parking strategy, city parking enforcement is inconsistent downtown.  Citation rates are often lower than off-street parking so that doesn't do much to discourage misusing a parking spot.

"So really working with the city to enforce fairly but firmly and come up with an approach that's targeting these behaviors," Olmstead said.

If you would like to check out the entire report, click here.