University Area Partners

Junior Geography student Ben Stevens pays to park on the corner of San Antonio and 21st St, one of the 385 new meter spots installed by the city in West Campus. A percentage of the meter fees will go towards funding the upkeep of the streets and sidewalks in the area.

Photo Credit: Maria Arrellaga | Daily Texan Staff

To increase safety and improve maintenance in West Campus, Austin installed 385 parking meters during the break that run up 25th Street to Rio Grande Street and north and south on Rio Grande, San Antonio and Nueces streets north of 24th Street, upsetting students who live in the area.

Leah Fillion, public information specialist for the Austin Transportation Department, said the meters will help improve the safety of the streets, open up parking spots and decongest the West Campus area.

According to Fillion and the University Area Partners, installing the meters cost $328,509.

The Austin Transportation Department installed the meters, which became active on Jan. 2, spokesman Steve Grassfield said. Although the meters became active during the break, Grassfield said the city made efforts to ensure students knew that when they returned, the parking meters would be up and running.

“We had signs installed by [Dec. 7] so the students were aware of the changes,” Grassfield said. 

Student Government submitted a letter to the City of Austin that approved an initial pilot program for the parking meters in West Campus.

Initial meter fees will go toward paying this installation cost. Grassfield said 51 percent of the meter fees will also help pay for the new projects in the area.

For example, the sidewalks on 23rd street benefited from this program.

Grassfield has high hopes for the program and said that in addition to paying for new projects, the meters already funded bike lanes from 19th to 24th streets.

“There are certainly fewer cars on the streets where the meters have been installed,” said Brian Donovan, spokesman of the University Area Partners.

Donovan was the chair of the parking committee that coordinated the parking meter planning and implementation. He said the group coordinated with the Austin City Council during the process.

Donovan and Grassfield both said since the meters were installed the week of Dec. 18 and activated at the beginning of the month, it is too early to tell how the meters are impacting the city and the students.

However, the meters in the busy West Campus streets have not been a popular change with students.

Those who do not live in the West Campus area are also affected by the meters, mechanical engineering junior Kristen Palughi said.

“The one most affected by [the parking meters] are visitors and friends of people who live in West Campus, because most places come with parking for those who live there,” Palughi said.

Printed on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 as: New meters frustrate students

Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this article had several false statements regarding funding from meters, Student Government’s response to the project, the status of 23rd Street and information about construction of bike lanes. Funds from this project will not go to constructing bike lanes from 25th to 29th street and have been used for bike lanes on 19th to 24th streets and will be used for new projects, such as widening the sidewalk. Fifty-one percent of the funds from the meters will go to paying for projects. Student Government submitted a letter of approval to the City of Austin on a pilot of this project. The city has made improvements on 23rd street, and it is in good shape. 

Austin Transportation Department officials are collaborating with local residents, businesses and neighborhood organizations to finalize programs they hope will increase the efficiency of parking throughout the city.

The Parking Benefits District Program would direct how the department would install parking meters throughout neighborhoods such as West Campus, where a high volume of cars park on the street. The plan has been in the works for more than a year, but logistical challenges have slowed implementation. The planning committee for the program has drafted a final, detailed version and is working with a lawyer to prepare these initiatives for a city council vote.

A portion of the revenue from the meters would be given to the city to fund neighborhood improvements. The Residential Parking Permit Program would allow city officials to issue permits to residents of the metered districts exempting them from paying for parking in those spots.

John Lawler, urban studies senior and Student Government liberal arts representative, said he has been following the developments of both programs through his involvement with the University Area Partners, a West Campus neighborhood association.

“The Parking Benefits Program would be beneficial because we could purchase things like new lighting fixtures along certain dark alleyways to try and make the area safer,” Lawler said.

Lawler said incorporating the permit program into this system is necessary but complicated. He said the University Area Partners have been drafting the ordinance on how to implement the programs to find the most neighborhood friendly approach.

“Both programs are crowd control strategies,” Lawler said. “Creating this ordinance has been a really long process so far, but it’s getting to the point where it’s hopefully going to go to City Council soon.”

Brian Donovan, Inter-Cooperative Council general administrator, said the University Area Partners have been pushing to get permits for residents of single family houses and properties built before parking regulations were implemented in 1960. He said this system is complicated because issuing too many residential parking permits could lower profits from the meters for the city and the neighborhood.

“I don’t think it could be any worse than it is now because you pretty much can’t park anywhere,” Donovan said. “I think the new programs, once they are finalized, would be an improvement in terms of being able to drive to and park in West Campus.”

Scott Ward, economics junior and West Campus resident, said he has an especially hard time finding parking on weekends because people from other schools and areas often visit the University area then. He said he feels residential parking permits would help cut back on some of the struggle of competing to find open parking spots.

“I definitely think the funding for neighborhood improvements would also be beneficial to West Campus,” Ward said. “I think we could use things like more security and cameras to help us pinpoint what the safety problems are and how we can address them.”