City ordinance implements parking meter time extension

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Patrons of Downtown Austin should carry more loose change starting in August 2011, after City Council members voted 6-1 Thursday to implement an ordinance that will extend hours for parking meters. Currently, paid parking meter hours run from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Under this ordinance, parking meters downtown will charge from 8 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Monday through Saturday, while all other paid parking meters will charge from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The rate per hour will not change. Council members pointed out that, living in a large city, Austinites shouldn’t be surprised about having to pay for parking for longer periods of time. The new ordinance is expected to help businesses in the downtown area. With the extended times, council members believe people will park for shorter periods and help increase customer turnover. “We’re making these changes to reflect the business needs surrounding the meters,” said Transportation Department director Robert Spillar. Travis Snavely, who spoke at the meeting, said 81 percent of Austin residents oppose the changes, according to a survey by the city. Residents were also concerned the ordinance would hurt nonprofit organizations. Skip Cameron, who volunteers for the Paramount Theatre, told the council that it was likely that he and his wife would volunteer less if the ordinance passed. “I would urge you to back up,” he said. “Start rethinking how to revitalize downtown Austin without driving people to the suburbs.” The city plans to include a provision to aid those performing community outreach. Latin American studies senior Swetha Nulu said she believe the new ordinance will harm businesses because people will be hesitant to drive downtown. “They should implement cheaper parking garages or other ways to make it a little more accessible for people,” Nulu said. Despite the opposition, City Council members said they believe the changes will benefit the downtown Austin area. “I recognize that the action we’re proposing is jarring to many, but parking has been a problem in Austin for decades,” said council member Chris Riley. “It can be easier than ever to park downtown as a result of the changes we’re proposing today.”