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Trouble finding a parking spot on South Congress Avenue? The city is working on it.

Friday, July 22, 2022 by Samuel Stark

Those of us who have braved the journey to find parking on South Congress Avenue during peak hours know it is not for the faint of heart.

You might be circling, searching for an open spot for what feels like hours. Euphoria fills your spirit when you think you have finally found that perfect spot. But almost as quickly as your optimism ascended, it dissipates as you realize there is an almost inconceivably small car scooched all the way up to the curb. Your journey continues.

The Transportation Department is aware of the parking challenges in the area and is ready to take some steps based on recommendations that came from a study of the parking in the South Congress District, coordinated by the Downtown Austin Alliance.

“(South Congress is) experiencing the issues that happen when you grow businesses within a district: Everybody wants to go there,” Jason Redfern, division manager at the Transportation Department, told the Monitor. “And now we have to employ those tools to better manage all the parking and interest within that district,” he added.

The South Congress District parking study was split into two phases. Phase one aimed to diagnose the problems through data collection and analysis, and phase two laid out strategies to mitigate them.

The study found that many cars stay parked in the South Congress District, particularly on South Congress Avenue, for extended periods, sometimes beyond eight hours. Further, for the drivers who are violating parking rules, there is limited enforcement due in part to a lack of resources to fund enforcers.

Also, of the 5,400 parking spaces they tallied in the area, nearly 40 percent of the spots available at peak hours go underutilized, while spots on South Congress Avenue stay filled.

One of the study recommendations the Transportation Department is currently going forward with is the establishment of South Congress District as a Parking and Transportation Management District, a defined area that would benefit from the addition of parking meters. If a PTMD is approved in this area, 51 percent of the revenue collected from the parking meters would go to funding transportation-related projects within the district, Redfern said. See the proposed South Congress PTMD boundary here.

These parking districts already exist in the Austin area, including one on the east side.

“We’ve leveraged dollars (from) the East Austin area (PTMD) to help finish an intersection improvement project where they’re going to put in ADA-compliant ramps,” Redfern said.

Though eventually the Transportation Department will put meters into the South Congress District if the PTMD is approved, Redfern said they want to ensure other issues, such as simplifying and standardizing residential permit parking, are in place before they add them.

The parking study found that currently in the South Congress District there are 13 different types of residential parking permits, which have varying restrictions. The study authors point out that these different types of permits are “confusing” and suggest that this contributes to the underutilization of available spots, including for employees of South Congress establishments, outside of South Congress Avenue.

Before the PTMD strategy in the South Congress District is adopted, the plans will be presented before the Urban Transportation Commission and the Mobility Committee. The plan will then be presented to City Council, which will vote on it later this year, Redfern said.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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