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Tiered-rate parking payment system to free up parking spots, decrease use of parking tickets

Tuesday, September 1, 2020 by Ryan Thornton

Over the next month and a half, the Austin Transportation Department will be updating on-street parking meters to a more flexible “pay-by-plate” system that will make it easier for drivers to add extra time to a parking session. The new tiered-rate system will further the city’s ongoing effort to increase turnover at on-street parking spots while also reducing the use of parking citations.

“Parking tickets are a civil violation but are an entry point into the court system that could be simply avoided if the customer could add a bit more time to their parking session,” Robert Spillar, director of Austin Transportation, said in a memo to City Council on Aug. 25.

Until now, the city limited the amount of time a driver could use a parking space based on demand in the surrounding area. Anyone using the space beyond the maximum limit would be fined up to $40 on top of paid parking fees and any court costs. Under the new system, drivers will enter their license plate at the parking kiosk and pay per hour for a maximum parking session of 10 hours.

Instead of risking a parking ticket, drivers needing more time can now pay $2-$5 for an extra hour of parking. Hourly rates will start at $2 and increase incrementally after the first two hours. Six hours of parking will cost $19 and a 10-hour session will cost $39 – still lower than the cost of a citation for exceeding the time limit under the previous system.

“We believe that many customers violate the current system because they require only another ‘few minutes’ to complete their business, and that many have received tickets for simply overstaying their parking session because they could not get back to their car in time to beat the meter,” Spillar said.

The option to pay progressively higher hourly rates encourages drivers to leave the space before rates increase further. The city intends for this to free up more on-street parking spots, reducing congestion and vehicle emissions. Ultimately, the department aims to increase occupancy at off-street parking facilities and reserve on-street spots for shorter trips and convenient access to local businesses.

“Our work to provide curb access remains important especially as we address the impacts of Covid-19 on our community, as it allows customers to access local businesses located street-side,” Spillar said.

Besides reducing the use of parking citations and freeing up on-street parking spots, the department said the new pay-by-plate system will make it easier to monitor parking, reduce the cost of operations, provide better real-time parking availability data and save drivers the time of dealing with parking stickers.

The department has been testing the pay-by-plate technology on Toomey Road since January of last year. So far, the department has not registered any complaints against the new system.

Also beginning Sept. 1, the department will start charging customers the 25-cent merchant processing fees for credit card payments at parking kiosks.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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