Finding the Way to Downtown Parking
A compromise on paid parking hours is steering its way toward council approval
Dueling City Council resolutions tinkering with the expansion of paid parking hours Downtown may not be on a collision course after all. At council's work session this week, Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo – who had floated a resolution postponing implementation of the previously adopted expansion (to evening hours) – both voiced support for a compromise proposed by Mike Martinez, although questions regarding foregone revenues are still circling the block.
This spring, council voted to start charging for metered parking Downtown from 6pm to midnight Monday-Friday and all day on Saturday. Upon her election, Tovo – who spoke against the expansion in her campaign – offered a resolution along with Morrison (previously the lone vote against the expansion) to postpone the process and solicit additional public input on the admittedly unpopular decision. A vote on that item was postponed, and when it returned on council's Aug. 18 agenda, it was along with an additional item from Martinez and Mayor Lee Leffingwell – leading hall watchers to wonder whether the items were compatible.
Martinez's motion calls also for recruiting stakeholder input but would implement changes in September. It would expand paid parking hours into the evening only on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and it would designate the after-hours paid parking as running from Lady Bird Lake to Eighth Street; the original proposal reaches 10th Street.
The financial impact of the change was dwelled on extensively by Leffingwell, despite his co-sponsorship of Martinez's resolution. Bill Spelman, with the assistance of Transportation Department head Rob Spillar, indulged in some on-the-fly estimates, with Spillar estimating about $1.5 million in income available for parking projects like wayfinding (i.e., directions to parking lots) and Downtown improvements, about half of the city's initial estimate.
Morrison suggested that the funds could be recouped via changes to the city's valet parking rules. Martinez's resolution calls for the city manager to bring back recommendations for "modifications relating to valet service" (including fees valet companies pay the city to "bag" parking meters for their own use) by November.
"It does not appear that we would be underwater," Morrison said, adding that "when folks hear [that] for a $250 permit, someone can get a prime space reserved – that's real concerning; it doesn't seem fair."