Concerns about parking and access have been aired for years as the area has continued to welcome new residents and businesses. City-led transportation management projects along the central street stretch back as far as the late 1990s, although Joseph Al-hajeri, an Austin Transportation Department program manager, said many of those efforts "fizzled out."
The city, neighbors and community stakeholders including the Downtown Austin Alliance most recently took on a local parking study in 2019 that produced several proposals to consider going forward. New strategies remained on hold amid the pandemic, but ATD is now seeking to implement paid parking along South Congress by late spring.
“The parking problem has continued as things started to come back, and that’s why we’re here today to go through this process and complete it," Al-hajeri told the City Council's Mobility Committee on Jan. 19.
ATD's current vision would enact paid parking along most of the corridor between Oltorf Street to the south and Bouldin Creek to the north. Most of the surrounding side streets would also be blanketed with parking restrictions under the city's plan, with a mix of permit-only spots for residents and paid areas for visitors.
The transportation department said it is seeking to rethink the local parking problem thanks to a range of issues, such as high demand for parking spaces, inconsistent parking enforcement and permit systems, overflow into adjacent neighborhoods, and crowding for business operators and employees.
While centered in part on parking issues, the city's plan would also establish a new Parking & Transportation Management District, or PTMD, for a broader area surrounding the South Congress corridor. Austin already has similar parking districts in place for the West Campus area, a southern portion of East Austin, the northern Lady Bird Lake shore west of First Street, and in the Mueller neighborhood.
The new paid parking plan would generally be limited to South Congress and the side streets, but revenue collected there would support transportation improvements across a broader area. The proposed parking management district runs from the Union Pacific Railroad to Travis Heights Boulevard between Oltorf Street to the south and Riverside Drive and Barton Springs Road to the north.
A majority of parking revenue collected within that area would be set aside for mobility improvements that the city and residents could work together to identify. Al-hajeri said the district could fund new sidewalks, bike lanes, road and pedestrian signals, watershed improvements, and other local infrastructure.
Final PTMD plans will be presented to Austin's Urban Transportation Commission as soon as February before moving to the City Council for approval. ATD said the parking program could launch in April or May.