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Austin Introduces 'Pay-By-Plate' System For Street Parking

A parking sign and other street signs along Guadalupe.
Julia Reihs
Parking will still cost $2 an hour for the first two hours, but then it will go up sharply.

The way Austinites pay for street parking is changing Tuesday. The Austin Transportation Department is shifting to a "pay-by-plate" model that will manage parking sessions by price instead of time.

Drivers will no longer get stickers to put on their windshields through the parking kiosks. Rather, they'll type in their license plate numbers and pay with a card or coins (no dollar bills) to start a session. Alternatively, they can use the PARK ATX app. Parking will still cost $2 an hour for the first two hours, but then rates will go up sharply:

“What we're trying to do is incentivize people to use the street system as minimally as possible," Jason Redfern, the city's parking enterprise manager, said. “Because on-street [parking is] really for that quick turnover parking session so people can come in, access a business ... and then return that parking space to the public just because the parking spaces are so scarce in Austin.”

Redfern said the new system should also reduce the amount of citations, by giving drivers more flexibility. According to data, 13% of citations in 2019 were due to drivers exceeding time limits. It is 10% so far this year.

“There are some real costs associated with people getting a citation,” Redfern said. “And a lot of times, we hear from people, ‘We just needed 15 more minutes. We just needed just a little bit more time.’”

He said the new system should also make things easier for parking officers and free them up to focus more on other duties such as bike lane enforcement and towing vehicles from alleys.

Redfern suggests that if people need to park for extended amounts of time, they use a garage instead of metered spaces. A number of garages, especially downtown, are offering discounts because of reduced demand due to the pandemic. Downtown employees are also eligible to apply for the city’s affordable parking program.

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Samuel King covers transportation and mobility for KUT News.
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