City Parking Proposal

The city is proposing a substantial raise in valet parking permits for Austin valet services and business owners. This could lead to rate increases for valet parking customers. Central Texas Valet is committed to keeping valet at an affordable rate for consumers. Our goal is simply to keep people coming downtown.

Article below from the Austin Business Journal, 8/5/2011.

The city of Austin may consider making changes to valet operations downtown, including increasing permitting fees and creating valet zones.

The recommendations were included in a report on extended meter parking hours by the joint subcommittee of the Urban Transportation Commission and Downtown Commission to help manage downtown parking. The changes could go into effect before the beginning of next year, when most valet operators renew their permits.

With an increase in development downtown, on-street metered spaces have become a very valuable city asset. There are 2,400 on-street parking spaces downtown, according to city staff. These are usually the first to be taken by the estimated 10,000 cars parked downtown on Friday and Saturday nights. The rest park in about 5,000 surface-lot spaces and about half of the 7,600 garage spaces.

Based on how much a space can generate from the meter, on-street spaces are valued at $2,340 a year. If parking meter hours were extended, their value would increase to $6,000 a year. Valet operators downtown pay a permit fee of $50 a year, plus $10 per location, and businesses pay $250 a year to use a city parking space for valet operations. The costs are sometimes split up depending on deals made between valet operators and businesses.

“It’s been clear for several years that this is an issue that needed to be addressed,” City Council Member Laura Morrison said. “We have a lot of work to do to make this a fair situation.” Morrison is focused on the $250 annual fee business pay because it equates to about 69 cents a day to permanently occupy a parking space during certain hours.

“We don’t feel the permit fee matches the market value of those parking spaces,” said Richard MacKinnon, chairman of the city’s joint subcommittee on parking.

Michael Girard, owner of TenOak, Speakeasy and several other downtown properties, said he’s tired of getting hit with fee increases. “For the success of downtown businesses, valet needs to be treated as a service that is a positive for business as a whole instead of a revenue generator,” said Girard, who estimates that 30 percent of his customers use valet parking.

Morrison, however, said the city’s goal is not to raise more money. She would like to compare valet operators to other businesses that use city assets, paying either a general fee or a per-customer fee to share valuable resources with the city. “We need to look at the value of parking spaces,” MacKinnon said. “Are we giving a gift to anybody, or should we give that to the public to use?”

There are 17 permitted valet operators at 43 locations using 176 parking spaces mostly in downtown Austin, according to the Austin Transportation Department.

Corey Evers, president of the Valet Association, is concerned about the overall effect of the city substantially raising permitting fees, saying valet operators must buy at least three spaces. “All valet operators would have to raise their prices, and that would drive people out of downtown,” Evers said.

The Transportation Department said the three-space minimum is not a steadfast rule, but rather an engineering judgement, and that most valet operations have at least three spaces. In an informal survey of 8,482 Austin residents conducted by the parking subcommittee, 75 percent of the respondents said they parked on the street, 32 percent in a garage and 20 percent in a surface lot. Only 5 percent said they used valet parking. The most desired action that respondents wished the city would take was restricting valet parking operators’ ability to reserve on-street metered spaces, followed by adding more public parking garages and removing time limits from on-street parking.

MacKinnon said too many people fail to recognize that a valet operator using three on-street spaces can park “50 to 100 vehicles a night in a garage. We’d be in great shape if all our spaces could be that efficient.” Morrison would also like to see more coordination among valet operators and businesses to create valet districts that consolidate valet stands to create one zone per block. Some areas, such as Colorado Street between West Fourth and West Fifth streets, have had to share a valet stand because of lack of space.

Girard of TenOak said the city has done of a good job of encouraging a common stand on that block. His restaurants, Maria Maria and Frank, have an agreement with the one valet company on the block. Evers, on the other hand, thinks moving to valet zones may lead to favoritism to one business over another, depending on where the valet station is placed.

“Each valet location already has a deal with business owners,” Evers said. Gordon Derr, assistant director of planning at the city Transportation Department, said shareholder meetings should take place in August to discuss the proposed ordinance.(512) 945-1540