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Code amendment would make car booting less of a headache

Monday, June 21, 2021 by Jonathan Lee

Getting booted for not obeying parking signage on private property is a huge hassle, involving a fine and a wait of sometimes an hour or more for someone to come and remove the boot. But if City Council passes a new tweak to city code, drivers could remove the boot themselves, saving time, if not money.

“This is a new self-release boot, and in the law, they don’t allow a self-release boot,” Joe Santiago, owner of Capital Parking ATX, a company that handles booting, told the Urban Transportation Commission on Thursday.

Santiago touted the benefits of the technology by describing someone who comes back to their car after a late night on the town, only to find a boot on one of the wheels. “We have accounts on Rainey Street, Sixth Street – you know, 2 in the morning, they really don’t want to wait an hour for us to come out there and take it off,” Santiago said.

The new boot, called a Tire Tag, weighs only 2 pounds and can be unlocked with a code after payment. The warning notice that accompanies the Tire Tag would tell car owners how to pay online, how open the lock and where to drop the boot off – in a drop box in the parking lot or at any other drop box around the city. Customers will have a week to return the boot.

The booting fee, typically $100, would stay the same. Commissioner Mario Champion asked if the new technology reduces personnel costs, thereby lowering the fee. Santiago said that because the cost of the new technology is about the same as any savings elsewhere, the fees will remain unchanged.

“If they got mad and threw it in the river or something, is there a fee?” Commissioner Diana Wheeler asked. Santiago said that the fee is only $60 for a lost or damaged Tire Tag compared to $200 for a damaged boot.

According to Santiago, commercial landlords tack thousands of dollars onto businesses’ leases for private parking spaces. “Parking now is valued at $25,000 a parking spot per year, depending on the type of business you have,” he said. Some business owners, looking to reserve their precious parking spaces for customers, hire booting companies to enforce parking rules. Private companies like Capital Parking ATX do the actual booting, overseen by the Austin Police Department and Austin Transportation Department, which vets the companies to prevent fraudulent activity.

The commission unanimously recommended that City Council update the code to allow the self-release boots.

Photo by Wesha, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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