City Council to vote on ordinance to increase parking meters hours

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Parking may be even more of a pain for students and Austin residents if the City Council approves an ordinance in today’s meeting that would increase parking meter hours. The Downtown Commission and the Urban Transportation Commission reviewed an ordinance that would amend the city code concerning parking meter hours. The council will vote on it today. If it passes, parking meter hours downtown will run from 8 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and all other parking meter hours will last from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Currently all parking meters operate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during weekdays. Since Austin is the 15th largest city in the nation, it has significant congestion and parking problems, said Matt Curtis, communications director of the mayor’s office. “We’re working to address all of these problems,” he said. “This is one method the city staff is presenting as a potential parking solution and we look forward to the discussion tomorrow on the dais.” The ordinance will most likely pass through council, said Dustin Lanier, chair of the Urban Transportation Commission. Lanier voted against the ordinance. “I find just as many concerns on the policy level as I do positives,” he said. “To me it just feels like a revenue thing, and I think revenue issues should be dealt with as part of the overall budget, not something separate.” The intent of the ordinance is to prevent long-term parkers from keeping out short-term parkers like dinner guests, but also to create a general revenue stream for the city, said Student Government representative John Lawler, an urban studies junior. Lawler fought the attempt by the city to install parking meters in West Campus, and SG passed a resolution against the city’s effort. In Portland, the city got rid of virtually all free public parking and a highway in order to decrease citizens’ reliance on cars, Lawler said. The extended parking meter hours in downtown Austin would have basically the same effect, but Austin’s alternate systems of transportation aren’t nearly up to par, he said. “You’re hitting the students who are going to a show or taking a girl out to a sushi bar,” he said, “Parking is an issue for everyday business people and the parking meters should apply to them, but if we want to keep downtown a viable economic powerhouse for the city of Austin, we need to make sure that we can give free parking in the evenings.” Extended parking hours downtown would cause many students to either find another way to get downtown or simply stop going, said biology sophomore Helena Wayt. Wayt plans to have her car on campus next year and wouldn’t drive it downtown if the ordinance passed, she said. “I would find another means to get there,” she said. “Most students wouldn’t pay the extra money. Students do their best to avoid paying extra whenever possible.”