Depending on demand, metered parking rates could reach as high as $5 per hour in some parts of the city, according to Austin transportation officials. This new market-based approach is an effort to bring supply and demand economics to the city’s parking policy. The strategy has been cited by transportation experts as a best practice to help ease congestion and encourage use of alternative transportation modes.
Mary Vo, spokesperson for the Austin transportation department, said the city would regularly monitor how the pricing impacts the city’s metered spaces, with the goal of always having 15-20% of metered parking spaces available on a block. If there are regularly no empty spaces in a given area, it signals parking might be too cheap considering demand; likewise, if half the block’s spaces are regularly vacant, it signals parking may be too expensive, according to Vo.
The Austin Transportation Department had been eyeing a change like this for some time. Earlier this year, Jason Redfern, the transportation department’s parking enterprise manager, told Community Impact Newspaper the city “needed to do more work” around adequate parking pricing.
Striking that perfect price point is, in part, a mobility effort aimed at easing congestion, Redfern said. National studies cited by Austin transportation officials show roughly 30% of urban congestion is caused by drivers circling the block searching for free or cheap parking. If the city can ensure that 15-20% of spots are regularly open, it would help ease gridlock, according to Redfern.
The city’s fiscal year 2019-20 budget allocated room in its revenue projections for parking rates to fluctuate between $2 and $5, based on the department’s observations of supply and demand. Vo, however, stopped short of calling the change a “dynamic” pricing model because the city intends to monitor and consider changes on a three-month basis in order to adequately alert drivers of coming price changes.
Although the recent rate hike to $2 is a citywide base fee change, Vo said further rate changes will be made to respond to location-based demand, since parking demand fluctuates in different areas of the city.