AUSTIN, Texas — We all know the struggle of circling the block to find a parking spot downtown. This problem can be even worse for anyone who has a disability.
Clifton Bean, a Travis County resident who has multiple health issues that contribute to his disability, said he sees the problem every time he tries to go downtown to spend an evening with his family.
"Every time we go, we can't find a parking spot, and wind up going home. After a while, you just get disappointed," Bean said.
According to Lae Austin, the Central Area Engineer for the City of Austin, the city abides by the guidelines set by the Texas Accessibility Standards, which specifies a certain percentage of spaces required to be ADA (American Disability Act) accessible, per total number of spaces in the city.
There are approximately 8,000 parking spaces citywide. Of those, Austin said 183 are ADA accessible. with a majority of those located downtown.
"We currently exceed, by a decent amount, the number of ADA required spaces, so we are already in excess of what is out there," she said.
On Oct.14, the city implemented a raise in metered parking prices to help with the turnover of spaces. Since people requiring accessible parking can park in general spaces for free in the city, Austin believes this can help resolve the issue.
Bean echoed that sentiment.
"If I can't find another handicap spot, the best alternative would be another spot," Bean said.
However, she acknowledged that on a typical workday, an accessible space may be occupied for an entire day. She said the Transportation Department is considering placing a time limit on handicap spaces.
When it comes to where each ADA spot is placed, Austin said it gets complicated.
The Texas Accessibility Standards (TAS) are designed for parking facilities, not right-of-way parking. Currently, the federal government is working on guidelines to address street parking requirements.
"It's been in draft form for over a decade and it doesn't show any signs of being adopted immediately," she said.
In addition to hiked meter fees, Austin said as new developments are built, more ADA accessible spots must be added.
"We are adding handicap spaces pretty much continuously," she said.
Bean hopes the city puts the guidelines aside and looks at the elderly/disabled population who want to have the same access as anyone else, especially those who cannot afford parking garages.
“A lot of handicap people, like myself, we are on fixed incomes. We can't afford to pay the $30 for parking,” he said.
Austin suggested anyone struggling with downtown parking fees to consider the Affordable Parking Program.
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