Council rids required downtown parking rules


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist CHRIS GARCIA

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

Posted on April 11, 2013 at 6:27 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 11 at 7:01 PM

AUSTIN --  It seems everywhere you look in downtown Austin there's a new business going in, hotel popping up or restaurant opening, and that means parking spaces are hard to come by.

"More people are coming here everyday, so it's just a limited number of parking spots available," said J.R. Skrabanek who works downtown.

For people who prefer to drive downtown, things could get worse as more businesses set up shop.

The Austin City Council approved an ordinance eliminating the minimum number of parking spaces a business has to construct in and around downtown. Businesses will only have to provide parking for the disabled.

"What city council wants to do is encourage people to use alternative forms of transportation to travel to the downtown area, such as pedestrian, bicycle, transit," explained George Zapalac of the City of Austin Planning & Development Review Department.

"I think it's bad if you work downtown. It makes it harder to come downtown with the current public transit system. There aren't a lot of options if you don't live in the vicinity," said Deniz Varan who works downtown.

It's a hard concept for some Texans, but not to Michelle Persson Reilly and her husband Mark who are visiting from Boston.

"It never even occurred to us, going to a major city, to think about renting a car," said Persson Reilly. "In a city this small and this nice weather, there's no reason not to be walking, busing, cabbing."

Business owners who spoke with KVUE News seem to be torn about the new rules. Some say it will discourage people from coming downtown, while others, say it's not so bad.

Lisa Bagby, owner of the gift shop Prize, says she will just have to do a better job of letting her customers know what parking is available.

"We are lucky in that we are able to validate parking in two of the biggest lots downtown. We validate in AMLI and City Hall, so I guess we should do a better job of letting our customers know that," said Bagby.

So like it or not, many Austinites could soon be looking at other ways to get  downtown.

"I think a lot of people won't be happy about it, I think there will be a lot of complaints. But if you want to come downtown and experience what Austin has to offer, you'll find a way to get down here," Skrabanek said.

City officials said they did a study on the parking that's available downtown and found there are several parking garages that are under-utilized. There will be an option for people who still want to drive. There are also several apps on the market that can help drivers find available parking in Austin.

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