Downtown parking meters will get tougher on weekends

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Lawrence Martinez walks past a parking meter, which may be no longer be free on weekends, next to Hickory Street Bar & Grill Tuesday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

Extended parking meter hours for the downtown area will go into effect next month. Based on last week’s city council vote, the city will enforce metered street parking from 1st to 10th streets between IH-35 and Lamar Boulevard between the hours of 6 p.m. and midnight on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

The new hours begin Sept. 6, but police will issue warnings instead of tickets until October, said Matt Curtis, spokesman for Mayor Lee Leffingwell.

Council members and city officials passed the ordinance last week but began discussing a change in enforcement hours in March because of concerns with crowding along downtown streets. After surveying approximately 8,500 citizens and receiving a response indicating that 75 percent of drivers preferred free parking, council members reconsidered enforcing metered weekend parking and used information from the survey to refine their policy.

“What we passed at the council meeting on Thursday reflected much of the feedback we received,” said council member Mike Martinez. “I intend to continue to listen to that feedback and will remain open to the possibility of adjusting the ordinance in the future to find the right balance to manage a public resource and ensure that downtown continues to thrive.”

Council members directed the city’s Transportation Department to continue developing further solutions to overcrowded parking spaces, including the possibility of Capital Metro transit in the downtown area at night.

The city will use additional revenue from extended meter hours to pay for the enforcement and operating costs of the ordinance and for transit improvements downtown, said Austin Transportation Department spokeswoman Leah Fillion.

Fillion said a button will be added to the affected meters intended to allow inebriated would-be drivers to buy time at their parking space into the next day.

“If you are able to plan ahead, you can purchase time into the next day,” Fillion said. “We understand there are some occasions that you can’t plan ahead, but if you can show proof you took responsible means home by taxi or bus, any ticket will be dismissed.”

Transportation Department members charged with drafting and putting these ideas into effect will report back to the city council in March 2012 to provide details on the ordinance’s effectiveness.

“In an effort to help the parking problem, our Transportation Department worked with several downtown stakeholders to come up with this plan,” Curtis said. “Austin is a big city. We grow very quickly, and our parking problems grow just as quickly.”

Printed on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 as: Downtown parking meter hours set to expand into nights, weekends.