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Driving a Hard Bargain: Changes Coming for Valet Parking?
The fees valet companies pay to use public parking spaces are being reconsidered by the city.

At a meeting tonight, the Urban Transportation Commission will hear a presentation on potential changes to Austin’s valet parking ordinance.

Currently, a valet business can lease the use of a public parking spot for $250 a year. And approximately 180 parking spots are used for valet parking downtown. But as the city grows and parking becomes more scarce, calls have emerged to reconsider the fee, which hasn’t been modified since 1999.

Talks between the city and valet operators have been going on since August of last year. Both the city and the valet operators favor a change to an hourly rate. 

But while the city favors a flat $1 hourly rate, valet operators call for the following:

  • Setting the hourly rate at 50 cents.
  • Providing a free hour immediately before hours of permitted use, in order to give cars parked in those spots a grace period before they must be towed.
  • An end to the hourly rate after midnight.
  • A 50% reduction in fees on unmetered days – some holidays, but particularly Sundays.

The revised ordinance, discussed at an Urban Transportation Commission meeting in June, would also have the city manager appoint a director to oversee the permitting process and any accusations of misconduct.
“Under the current ordinance, nothing prevents a business owner from purchasing a spot for valet and using it for personal parking,” says Jason Redfern, of the City of Austin's Transportation Department.

Additionally, valets would not be able keep cars in spots for longer than 45 minutes.

“We want to make sure it’s clear in the ordinance that we’re using the space to ensure the safe flow of traffic, no matter certain valet’s parking needs,” Redfern says.

But these new proposed limits are flexible. For instance, an adjusted time limit would be offered for permit holders who fit into the hotel/residential category – since those people tend to park longer term and higher fees could make providing services cost prohibitive.

Redfern expects the Austin City Council to approve a final revised ordinance by September at the latest.

“If one party comes away happy, then somebody didn’t do their job. We’re hoping we can walk away and say we met in the middle and we’re doing what’s right for the city,” Redfern says.

If approved, the new fee will be implemented at the beginning of next January. You can view a presentation on valet changes online. 

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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