As expected, the Austin City Council has cleared the way for creation of a municipal parking authority that will build and operate for-profit parking structures in downtown and other high-density regions of the city. Proceeds from the garages will be used t support the hike and bike trails, bicycle lanes, and other alternative transportation projects. If parking is inexpensive, abundant, and well-integraed into new projects (underground!!!), than this decision will help the ity build a more vibrant downtown.
As we have written before, it is clear that parking is becoming a problem: the easier it is to park downtown, the more people will come downtown to shop, eat, live, work, and entertain themselves. High parking costs are already an obstacle to businesses thinking of moving into the city center. Many companies who can afford the rent are put off by the $150-$200 / month cost of providing parking for each and every employee. As parking costs continue to rise, it becomes a tax on every Austinite who wants to enjoy downtown, and it lowers the value of business and buildings who don’t see as many visitors as they might if parking were cheap and plentiful.The result hurts the city by reducing sales tax and property tax revenues.
Here is a summary from the Austin Business Journal:
The Austin City Council approved a resolution to create a city agency that will build, finance and own structured parking garages in the city.The Austin Parking Enterprise will operate the parking garage planned as part of the Seaholm Power Plant redevelopment, and any publicly owned parking garage approved in the Green Water Treatment Plant redevelopment. The parking enterprise will consider expanding the supply of publicly-available parking in areas like downtown, the area around North Burnet/Gateway in the so-called “Second Downtown” area and in other transit-oriented developments near future commuter rail stops, and South Congress Avenue.The agency is intended to provide a dedicated long-term funding stream for planning and investing in pedestrian, bicycle and transit infrastructure, trails, and parking infrastructure after covering the costs of parking operations and maintenance. The agency would also make the city eligible for federal transit reimbursements and other state and federal grants.
As we have asserted, at $19,000 a space, parking is expensive to build. While the City clearly sees the parking shortage as a opportunity to add capacity and earn money for the city, this perspective may be short-sited. By focusing more on low cost parking and less on profits, the city could likely generate more revenue through sales and property taxes as well as hie prices for city owned land sold in the future.