Current downtown Austin parking survey confusing, survey shows

Dewitt “De” Peart, president of the Downtown Austin Alliance Courtesy Downtown Austin Alliance

The results of the downtown Austin parking survey are in, and responders and stakeholders say the biggest takeaway is that it is difficult to understand the parking system that several entities manage.

According to preliminary findings from the Downtown Austin Alliance—an entity made up of community members and downtown business owners—price, signage, duration and locations of parking vary, and it is difficult to find parking, so many people give up after a certain time spent looking for parking in the downtown area or avoid it completely, choosing to go elsewhere for entertainment.

The survey is part of a greater comprehensive downtown parking strategy being conducted by Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates. The preliminary survey findings were released at a community workshop yesterday.

Key takeaways

Dewitt “De” Peart, president of the DAA, said among the private and public parking garages, the city-managed parking and the state-managed parking, there’s no uniform parking system, and people are not sure what and how they will be expected to pay and how long they can stay at any given parking spot.

In addition, there are as many as 30,000 parking spots available during peak periods, which means people are not finding the open spots, according to Peart.

Peart said another takeaway that surprised him was the consulting firm’s recommendation that no additional parking should be built, even with the estimated growth of Austin. He said the study shows some parking garages could even be converted into other uses eventually.

Other survey findings

  • The downtown area has 71,500+ parking spaces, 65,099 of which are off-street spaces and 6,405 are on-street spaces—9 percent of the total parking supply.
  • Parking turnover varied substantially, with many time limit violations.
  • The majority of downtown employees drive alone to work.
  • Almost one in five downtown residents walk to work.
  • Free or discounted parking is available for most employees.
  • Survey responders said they want free parking. If they can’t have free parking, they want more transportation options.
  • 30 percent of traffic congestion is a result of people slowly driving through downtown looking for parking.

Possible solutions

This map shows an inventory of the off-street parking in downtown Austin.

This map shows an inventory of the off-street parking in downtown Austin. Courtesy Downtown Austin Alliance

This map shows an inventory of the on-street parking in downtown Austin.

This map shows an inventory of the on-street parking in downtown Austin. Courtesy Downtown Austin Alliance

The recommendations from the consulting firm will be presented in February, and Peart said technology solutions are at the top of his list.

“This is a smart city initiative,” he said, explaining he wanted to see a solution beyond the city-run, pay-by-phone ParkX parking program, which launched in April.

He said another possible solution could be creating parking on the perimeters of downtown and shuttling people into the city, thereby reducing traffic congestion.

Peart’s other suggestion was to introduce the concept of shared parking. He said people working in office buildings could park in a garage during work hours, and tenants of an adjacent apartment complex could park in the garage outside of work hours.

Peart said he anticipated policy changes as well, adding city staff, the Austin Planning Commission and the Austin Transportation Department have been active in the study.

“This is not a study in and of itself,” Peart said. “This is a study with a plan at the end so we can solve this problem.”

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