Paid parking begins in Rainey Street district

City says effort aims to improve mobility

Rainey Street district bar patrons, owners and employees say they are adapting to having to pay to park in the area.

On Feb. 28, the City of Austin activated paid parking in the district. For Austinites such as Jim Read, a self-described regular at the bar Lustre Pearl, paying for parking takes some getting used to.

"I've been coming here for a while, and it's still a little weird," he said. "But it's not a huge deal."

The Rainey Street district has 31 on-street pay stations, and four pay stations for approximately 125 parking spaces at the Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St. On-street parking costs the same as downtown, which is $1 per hour during certain times, and MACC parking cost $1 per hour from 8 a.m.–6 p.m. or a $5 flat fee from 6 p.m.–3 a.m.

Nicholas Benson, manager of Banger's, a bar located at 79 Rainey St., said although the paid parking has not significantly affected business, it has created some disruption.

"I think it organizes the street a little better, but it's not great for our employees," he said. "They are usually here longer than five hours, and they have to go out in the middle of their shift just to put money in their meter."

Implementing paid parking was an effort by the city to improve mobility in the Rainey Street district. Without paid parking, people would leave cars parked in the area all day and cause congestion, Austin Transportation Department spokeswoman Leah Fillion said.

REATX owner Jude Galligan, whose realtor firm is based in the Rainey Street area, said paid parking has accomplished the goal of not having cars in the same spot for a long period of time. He added that the biggest benefit is opening up the MACC parking lot to Rainey Street visitors.

"I think [paid parking is] an overwhelmingly positive addition to the neighborhood," he said.

The city is considering long-term mobility projects for the Rainey Street area, including making Rainey Street one-way and adding sidewalks and a bike lane, Fillion said. The development of Rainey Street, which was rezoned in 2004 as a part of the Central Business District, has necessitated transportation fixes in the area, Fillion said.

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