Choose Your Own Adventure: Austin Parking Meter-Style

So a few things to clear the air before we get started:

1) I support Laura Morrison and I'm glad to see she voted against the parking meter ordinance.  I think it's a pointless, irrelevant piece of policy that has no business happening right now.  Do I think her lone "no" vote had something to do with the insurgency to elect radio DJ Toby Ryan in her stead?  Absolutely.  But all that says to me is that the process of democracy is working (OMG!) and if it takes someone who normally has nothing to do with politics running against an incumbent to get them to vote the way the majority of Austin would like her to (hey, it's their survey, not mine), I don't see how this is a bad thing.

2) I support Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Martinez but I'm disappointed to see he voted for the parking meter ordinance.  I think it's a...okay, see above.  But I do appreciate the fact that Martinez has always been accessible and open with me, and I thank him for taking the time to talk with me tonight about this issue.

Ok, on to the fun stuff.  First, some ground rules:

1.  The new parking meter ordinance is scheduled to take effect in August 2011.
2.  Parking meters will remain at $1 an hour but will charge from 8 AM to midnight Monday through Saturday. 
3.  Parking at meters downtown on Sundays will remain free.

Got that?  Good, neither do I.  Let's proceed.

Scenario 1:  It's Friday night (after 6 pm) and you're on a date.  You don't want to be The Guy Who Circles Around Looking for Parking so you decide to shell out $7 bucks to park in a garage near the restaurant.  You and your date split a bottle of wine and cab it home (separately or together, I'll leave that up to the two of you).  What happens to your car?

Current rules:  Unless you parked in one of the very few garages that allows you to park overnight (I'm not telling you which ones they are -- that requires your own field research), you're pretty much asking to be towed or have a boot put on your car.  So as a reward for your environmentally-conscious, street-congestion-clearing over-zealousness, you're now The Guy Who Got His Car Towed.

New rules:  Martinez said repeatedly during our call that the ordinance voted on by the Council has several conditions which must be met before the new ordinance can take effect.  One of those conditions is that parking garages must open up their doors to more people and allow them to park overnight.  Until they do, the only place to park overnight without fear of towing on the weekends is at parking meters or the very few lots and garages that allow overnight parking.  These usually fill up quickly on the weekends, as do the meters.  Hmm, correlation?  I think yes.

Scenario 2:  It's Friday night (after 6 pm) and you score a primo street parking spot at a meter on West 6th.  At one of the 20+ local bars downtown, you have one too many (which, in this city, is reportedly two) so you take a cab home.  What happens to your car?

Current rules:  No big deal.  Go pick up your car anytime Saturday without worrying about getting towed.  Get a breakfast taco while you're at it, lush.

New rules: One of the provisions of the new parking meter ordinance will allow you to purchase up to 3 hours the following morning in case you decide to leave your car overnight.  As with many things COA-related, they really should market this better.  I think they should call it the "Walk of Shame Fee."

Scenario 3:  Your tire goes flat while you are parked at the meter.  What do you do?

Current rules:  Nothing.  You're totally screwed. A drink might be nice, since you can't drive anyway.

New rules:  You're equally screwed but you get to print out a few extra meter stickers for your windshield while you wait for AAA and I always find that time to be very satisfying.

Scenario 4:  You don't have a car or a job but you're interested in obtaining both.  Parking is kind of secondary to your concerns.

Current rules:  Um...Craigslist?

New rules:   While according to Martinez "this isn't a money grab," the City of Austin expects to make about $1.5 million a year in additional revenue.  A good portion of that has already been allocated toward hiring eleven more "meter enforcement" employees to take on additional hours. So take heart.  If you're one of the lucky ones, at this rate you could be employed by August.

3 Response to "Choose Your Own Adventure: Austin Parking Meter-Style"

  • $2 Says:

    There are other problems too, like visitors to downtown condos. Can't wait for Dewhurst to either tell his guests for his weekend dinner party to feed the meter in his invitations or walk 3 blocks from the nearest state garage to the Westgate.

    Most lots charge $20 for overnight parking. My understanding is the fine for not paying a meter at all is $20. Once demand goes up for the lot spots the price will go up to lets just say $21 for argument sake. Now, I'm encouraged to just pull up to a meter not pay a thing and let that poor sap walking around ticket me. I still save 1$. I'll just address 15 envelopes a month made out to the city of Austin and every time I get a ticket, drop another one the mail. So I'm guessing the man hours and processing of fines will eat way into their projected profits.

    This would make much more sense to me if there were vacant pay to park lots on the weekend and the city felt overnighters should park there. But there aren't, All the lots are filled whether they allow overnight parking or not. A space capacity study on the pay lots in the hot entertainment areas. Show me they are at 70% or less capacity then I might not be so mad but from my observation they are 100% full and that's why they can get away with $10 for night, $20 for overnight.

  • Anonymous Says:

    No thanks, I'm just driving home drunk.

  • Anonymous Says:

    I totally agree, and only want to remind everyone that taking the bus is always an option. $1 to get downtown, and then take a cab home. Doesn't work for everyone, but it can for many! Also check out the Night Owl lines, which are very limited but do serve some areas overnight.

    The bus schedules and availability aren't the best, but we can help make it better by increasing ridership and thereby providing a demand for the service!