The Urban Transportation Commission on Tuesday night got behind a proposal to add parking meters to streets on the north shore of Lady Bird Lake near Austin High School.

The plan would create a parking management district stretching from Deep Eddy Pool to Lamar Boulevard. If City Council ultimately approves it, nearly 300 currently free on-street parking spaces would be governed by meters from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

Jason Redfern, manager of the Austin Transportation Department Parking Operations Division, told the commission that the idea grew from a request by the Austin Independent School District to add city-owned meters to Stephen F. Austin Drive next to the high school, a stretch of roadway technically owned by the school district.

In order to maintain consistency and to manage drivers looking to avoid those meters, the department is proposing to also add meters to Veterans Drive, Atlanta Street, Deep Eddy Avenue and Hearn Street.

Revenue from the meters along Stephen F. Austin Drive would be collected by the city but given to AISD. In the rest of the proposed district, 51 percent of revenues would go toward local projects such as sidewalks, public art, and lighting. The remainder would be absorbed by the city’s general fund. ATD estimates the district would net $161,000 in the first two years of its existence.

The plan would not affect the free parking lot next to the tennis courts adjacent to the school. However, it would convert a 200-car lot beneath MoPac Expressway to paid parking during the same hours as the on-street parking meters. Revenue from that state-owned lot would be spent on improvements along the freeway corridor between Loop 360 and West 35th Street.

UTC Chair D’Ann Johnson expressed skepticism about charging for public car storage in such a central location near many popular destinations.

“Deep Eddy doesn’t have enough parking, and the only way to go to Deep Eddy is to park on the street,” she said of the historic pool, which is otherwise accessible via the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail and the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s No. 663 bus route, a University of Texas shuttle that does not operate on Saturdays or during periods when school is out of session.

Commissioner JD Gins defended the idea of using paid parking to manage demand in the district.

“What happens when you create a zone and say this is the one place where we’re going to institutionalize free parking, then everyone is going to try to park there, and then no one gets to park there,” he said.

Commissioner Kelly Davis concurred with Gins on that sentiment but voiced concerns about a concurrent proposal from the Parks and Recreation Department to convert a section of Zilker Park across the lake into a 700-space parking lot.

“It just seems like there are these two processes going on right now,” she told Redfern. “Are y’all even talking to them? Could this parking management strategy reduce the need for that parking lot?”

“We’ve not had that specific conversation,” Redfern replied.

“What I would like to see is for there to be parking strategies … that encourage people not to drive their cars to Zilker Park, especially if it means paving over grass and undoing the park that you went there to enjoy,” Davis told him.

The recommendation ultimately passed by the commission proclaims support for the plan to create the district but also contains language urging ATD to discuss the matter with PARD before bringing the final proposal to Council. The measure passed on a 7-2 vote with Johnson and Commissioner Chris Hosek voting against it. Commissioners Alex Reyna and Brian O’Reilly did not attend the meeting.

Map courtesy of the city of Austin. 

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