Plans to place parking meters in neighborhoods put on hold

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The city is delaying a plan to install new parking meters in the West Campus area until stakeholders finalize plans for a city-wide implementation program. The delay may last 6-9 months. The Parking Benefit District program aims to put solar powered meters that accept credit cards throughout the city, according to the City of Austin website. Some of the profit the parking meters generate will be used to improve pedestrian amenities such as sidewalks and trees. “We used the revenue from the [Parking Benefit District] to supplement the funding for the Rio Grande project and the enhancement of pedestrian amenities on the street,” said George Adams, the assistant director of the Planning and Development Review. Some city and student representatives said they are skeptical about the actual financial benefits of the program. At a recent citywide Parking Benefit District stakeholders meeting, a group of students, business owners and other representatives decided to delay the presentation of the program to the Austin City Council for deliberation so that they could come to agreement on the program’s terms. “Neighborhoods would still only be receiving 30 percent of the leftover revenue from the parking, minus flat rate deductions for costs of the meters,” said John Lawler, a Liberal Arts representative in Student Government. “In terms of actual sidewalks and street lighting for West Campus, [that is] only portions of a few city blocks.” Lawler is also an official student representative for the University Area Partners neighborhood association. He worked to pass a resolution last fall that condemned the current proposal and requested no parking meters be implemented along streets, except on parts of Rio Grande Street that back up into retail establishments. The city established a pilot program along San Antonio Street between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and West 26th Street in January 2006. There are also plans to develop another pilot program in the Rainey Street area. In 2006, City Council approved a zoning overlay in the West Campus area to increase residential density. A small part of the revenue from the Parking Benefit District program would improve the area’s aesthetics, according to the city’s website. “Currently the city has no plans to put new parking meters in the West Campus area,” said Steve Grassfield, transportation regulatory manager of the Austin Transportation Department. “Once the Parking Benefit District plans are finalized, neighborhood associations can request implementation of the [meters].” Businesses could request meters be installed around their property once the program is finalized, which could take six to nine months, Grassfield said.