Instead of receiving printed stickers to place in their windshield, drivers will now enter their license plate number into either the city's parking app or the kiosks located next to the parking spaces.
Drivers will then be able to stay in the space for up to the full 10 hours parking meters are in use—on-street spaces require payment Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
However, a new tiered fee structure will make spaces more expensive the longer a driver decides to park.
While the time limits at Austin city parking spaces are a thing of the past, only the first two hours of a stay will be at the city's previous rate, $2 per hour. Instead of that flat rate, the fee now gradually increases from Hour 3 to Hour 10. If a vehicle were to park for the full 10-hour maximum on the street from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., the fee would be $39.
Austin Transportation officials said they hope the new fee structure will both cut down on tickets and encourage drivers who are making longer stays to seek off-street garages.
In a memo, Austin Transportation director Robert Spillar wrote that parking time limits don't give any flexibility for drivers to take a few extra minutes with errands, and often lead to a $40 ticket.
"Unpaid parking citations can lead to consequences that exacerbate inequities in our community, ranging from affected credit scores to eventual loss of property," Spillar wrote.
The changes are also part of an ongoing effort to match supply with demand for on-street parking, which transportation officials said they believe will both relieve headaches for drivers looking for a place to mark and reduce congestion on the roads. In 2019, officials cited national studies showing that about 30% of traffic congestion in cities is caused by drivers circling the block to seek parking.
"Simplifying the parking system will improve the customer experience of parking in Austin and optimize the use of our curb space," said Jason Redfern, Austin Transportation's parking enterprise manager, in a press release. "These changes will also reduce parking citations issues for people overstaying time limits simply because they needed a few more minutes to complete their business."
Tickets may still be issued to drivers who park in a metered space and do not enter their license plate number at all or to those who prepay and overstay their visit. However, drivers can now add time through the app or the kiosks and will no longer have to move their vehicles after three hours.
Additionally, drivers who need only 15 minutes in a space may park for free by entering a code in the app. The codes are valid for two 15-minute periods every 24 hours.
According to a media release from Austin Transportation, the city has more than 8,000 paid parking spaces. Starting Sept. 1, kiosks will be programmed to accept license plate numbers downtown; the rest of the conversion will take place over a period of six to eight weeks.