Officials advance plans to improve neighborhood street parking

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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.”