The Residential Permit Parking program, designed to keep UT students from parking along streets in the North Campus area, has been spreading quickly to other parts of Austin, according to the Austin
“The program started in 1997, in the North Campus area, as a pilot program,” RPP program manager Joseph Al-Hajeri said. “Students would park in the area, leave their vehicles in front of residences and use bicycles and buses to get to class while the cars would stay parked in front of houses all day.”
As a result of these loitering cars, residents often have trouble finding parking for themselves or their guests near their homes, Al-Hajeri said. This was especially the case with many Austin homes constructed before 1959 that were not built with driveways.
The RPP program intended to solve this problem by granting residents of the North Campus area specially allotted hours during which only residents can park on the street. According to Al-Hajeri, the program succeeded in reducing the number of students parking in the neighborhood.
Soon, residents in other areas began using the program to mark off their parking spots, according to Susan Somers, board member of urbanist organization Austinites for Urban Rail Action. Currently, 283 city blocks, or 5,246 parking spaces, around Austin require these parking permits.
Al-Hajeri said the city’s transportation department makes sure each permit granted merits restricted parking hours for non-residents. As a part of this process, the city talks with affected residents, conducts parking studies and reaches out to nearby businesses.
Somers said despite the department’s scrutiny, the RPP program has spread to areas that do not need restricted parking zones.
“If you look at a lot of the newer RPPs, they did not have that level of demand, they didn’t have that many cars parked on the street, and most of the houses do have off-street parking,” Somers said. “We have created this policy for a problem that was kind of limited, and we have really expanded it, so we really need to be looking at where we are going with this.”
The extensive growth of the program has allowed residents to unfairly seize public sidewalks and roads, according to Somers.
“The bottom line is we are giving up what is really a public resource, paid for with public money, taxpayer money, to private residents,” Somers said.
When it comes to enforcement of the permit parking zones, residents of the North Campus area nowadays usually don’t have to resort to towing cars out of the reserved spots, Daanish Virani, math and MIS senior, said.
“We have signs in our lots that say ‘residential permit parking only,’” Virani said. “I would not really say that it’s enforced though. Probably two to three times in our four years here someone has parked in one of our spots, but we usually just leave a note on the car saying, ‘Hey man, this is our spot.’”