New parking plan suggested for South Congress



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Posted on December 21, 2013 at 7:49 PM

Updated Sunday, Dec 22 at 3:49 PM

AUSTIN -- It's one of the most famous places to shop and eat in Austin, but parking on South Congress Avenue can be a challenge for visitors, employees and the people who live near the popular street.

When street parking fills up, many hope to get lucky with a spot on a side street or a few blocks over in the Travis Heights neighborhood. It can cause a headache for customers, homeowners and business owners. That's why council member Chris Riley is suggesting making more spots available in the neighborhood.   

"It just has a character unlike anything," said Hill Country Weavers owner Suzanne Middlebrooks.

Her store has been on South Congress Avenue since 1996.

"The crowds have gotten crazy because it's also very trendy," she said.

All those people need a place to park.

"When you limit the parking for those businesses, you're limiting the parking for the staff to park. So they take up all the street parking so at 10:00 when businesses open there's not as much parking for customers to have," Middlebrooks said.

She even has a map on the door to give customers a lay out of their options.

"Obviously, we have a parking driveway but you can see right now we've got cars pulled in and cars behind," she described.

Middlebrooks said often times those customers walk out to find a ticket on their windshield.

"They get real bummed when they've been in the store and bought something and then they have a $40 ticket on their window," she said.

Just a few blocks down, it's residential parking only.

"Some people literally don't see the signs and you can tell they're talking, texting as they walk on," said resident Lee Hejl.

Neighbors even put up signs of their own to catch driver's attention.

"When they had the food trailer court here it got to be really, just a huge issue," Hejl said.

"It's been a tremendously popular area it's getting more and more visitors," said Council Member Chris Riley.

Riley said to avoid putting in meters there's another suggestion on the table.

"You could take one side and devote that to residents in the area. The other side can be open parking for both employees of the businesses and visitors to those businesses," Riley explained.

"That would essentially cut our parking in half," Hejl said.

It might not be ideal for people who live near South Congress but business owners like Middlebrooks said something has to change. She suggests putting a time limit on street parking

"If they would limit those streets to 2 hour parking then people wouldn't come and just park all day. The worker bees would be forced to find lots just a little bit further away and walk to work.," Middlebrooks said.

It's a balancing act for employees, customers and the residents.

"It's a complicated problem," Middlebrooks said.

If everyone is in agreement about the new plan and it's approved, Councilman Riley said they'll try it and measure how successful it is.