Downtown Austin Alliance reveals downtown parking study

Trying to find parking in downtown Austin can be challenging. But the Downtown Austin Alliance is working to change that.

AUSTIN - There is so much to love about Downtown Austin. And then, there's the parking or better yet, the lack of parking.

"It sucks," said Robert Torres who lives downtown.

"Miserable," said Christine Musgrave.

"Difficult," added Michelle Skupin who also lives downtown.

That's why the Downtown Austin Alliance hired consultants to figure out what's causing the problem and come up with solutions. After a year and a half, they presented the findings to the Austin City Council Mobility Committee on Wednesday. 

"Austin has a ton of parking challenges," said Phil Olmstead, Senior Associate for Nelson Nygaard which conducted the study. 

The challenges start with the supply. Researchers found there are more than 71,500 parking spaces downtown. That's equivalent to 490 football fields. But they're not all open to the public.

"Twenty-five percent of the total supply is never available to the general public," said Olmstead. 

And when parking garages are open to all, people would rather try to find one of the 6,500 street parking spots instead.

"Why would I pay $5 an hour, $6  an hour in an off street garage when it's $1, $1.20 to park on the street? So the pricing incentives are really misaligned," said Olmstead. 

The consultants aren't just pointing out problems, they came up with 19 recommendations divided into six sections:

  1. Maximize use of existing parking supply
  2. Strategically invest in information and technology
  3. Improve mobility options to reduce parking demand
  4. Simplify and leverage the zoning code
  5. Enhance parking administration and operations
  6. Provide additional public parking as needed

The DAA plans to put some into play in the next 18 months.

"As the downtown management association we really need to look at things like signage, which is so important we heard about today. Wayfinding, is so critical. So those are elements that we can begin working with our membership," said Dewitt Peart, President & CEO of the Downtown Austin Alliance.

The alliance will also work with the private sector, which owns 65% of the parking spaces downtown, to open space so everyone can find parking downtown. 

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