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Downtown Austin Has Plenty Of Parking, But Good Luck Finding An Open Spot

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez

There is plenty of parking in downtown Austin, but often those spaces aren’t available, according to a parking study released Wednesday by the nonprofit Downtown Austin Alliance. 

The group bills the study as the first comprehensive inventory of parking downtown. Researchers with Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates looked at the area bordered by I-35, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Lamar Boulevard and Lady Bird Lake, along with the South Central Waterfront. 

They found that there are more than 71,000 parking spaces downtown, but only about 6,400 spaces of those are on-street parking. The report calls for increasing on-street parking, as well as increasing the rates at meters, which typically run $1.25 an hour. 

Researchers found that of the more than 65,000 off-street spaces, about 25 percent are restricted, meaning they’re not available to the general public. 

"Parking is central to your economic lifeblood here in downtown," Phil Olmstead, senior associate with Nelson/Nygaard, told the city’s Mobility Committee while presenting the findings on Wednesday. "People drive, people are going to continue to drive for the foreseeable future, so getting parking right, managing it well, is really important." 

Dewitt Peart, president and CEO of the Downtown Austin Alliance, said the report comes at a crucial time as the city works on other large-scale planning efforts like CodeNEXT. 

"No single one of those strategies is a silver bullet, and so what we need to work on is over a number of years, working on each of those strategies to solve for the problem that we face with parking downtown," Peart said. "Really what we want to do is begin showing success and building momentum on this." 

Among its recommendations, the report calls for expanding Austin’s Affordable Parking Program and working to create a park-and-ride shuttle service.

The study also calls for broader sharing of private parking with the public by leasing those spots to the city or another entity. In some areas, the high demand for office parking during the day is replaced by demand from nearby restaurants and bars in the evening. Researchers say those two groups could share and use the exact same spots.

Here is the complete list of recommendations:

  1. Design and implement a performance-based parking management program
  2. Pilot a shared parking program in which city or other entity manages private parking as “public” parking. Provide technical assistance to better facilitate shared parking
  3. Expand the existing affordable parking program
  4. Enhance pedestrian access to parking facilities
  5. Explore opportunities to expand and clarify on-street supply
  6. Fully invest and implement comprehensive signage and wayfinding system
  7. Define an overall strategy that ensures technology tools support broader parking and mobility goals
  8. Continue to reinvest parking revenues into downtown and evaluate allocation of additional revenue to multimodal improvements
  9. Evaluate a park-n-ride or circulator shuttle to improve transit connections and access to remote parking
  10. Support comprehensive and coordinated improvements in employee-focused mobility services and programs
  11. Revise the zoning code to better support walkable, mixed-use development within the downtown study area
  12. Require provision and enforcement of transportation demand management for all new downtown development above a certain size
  13. Revise the zoning code to incentivize sharing of parking
  14. Create dynamic inventory and adjust on-street regulations to maximize flexibility at the curb
  15. Define and implement enforcement strategy to support performance-based management. Allocate sufficient resources to parking enforcement
  16. Establish a formal collaboration between the city and parking stakeholders
  17. Enhance event management practices to maximize parking system flexibility and predictability
  18. Plan for the future to nimbly respond to long-term trends in mobility and parking
  19. Strategically invest in public and shared parking supply in key locations
Syeda Hasan is a senior editor at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @syedareports.
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