It now costs $2 an hour to park on Austin streets, and the price could go higher

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — New parking rates of $2 per hour went into effect Monday morning citywide, representing a doubling in street parking costs in many places.

The Austin Transportation Department bumped up the rates from $1 per hour around the city and $1.20 per hour in the downtown core in order to free up more spots.

The city’s goal is to have 15% of the parking spaces on any given block open at any given time, and transportation officials say the cheaper rate was preventing that turnover.

And $2 is just the starting point, ATD spokesperson Mary Vo told KXAN. Starting in early 2020, the department will conduct occupancy studies to determine if they’re hitting the 15% goal. If not, ATD will raise prices more on blocks that aren’t meeting the target.

According to the city’s budget, the rate could rise to as high as $5 per hour in some places, but the department can only raise prices once every three months.

“We’ve not yet determined the increments by which pricing will adjust, but adjustments would be made, as needed, within specific blocks studied,” Vo said in an email.

City leaders expect the increase to bring in an additional $5.6 million this fiscal year to ATD’s parking management fund.

The price increase is also intended to reduce traffic congestion, especially downtown, where drivers circle blocks looking for street parking.

City Council member Kathie Tovo, who represents most of downtown, said she’ll be watching the process closely.

“If we see another increase here in a short period of time, you can bet that I will be asking a lot of questions about it,” she said. “We want to see our businesses downtown thrive, and for some of them, that does mean providing that access to people who are coming downtown in a vehicle.”

The cost increase will be a burden for some low-income drivers, Tovo said, especially those who work odd hours and don’t have access to public transportation. But the city needs to balance those needs with the need to free up spots.

“Those meters really aren’t intended to be a parking solution for people for a whole day,” she said.

ATD’s affordable parking program is also an option, she added, providing monthly passes for more than 20 downtown garages for $35-$65 per month. Vo said there’s space for thousands more people to enroll in the program.

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