I'm on firm ground when I say that downtown Austin already has plenty of parking. In 2000, 42% of all downtown garage spaces sat empty during peak hours. That developers continue to build more parking than they need for their own developments suggests the parking market is broken. Or that demand for self-contained parking is driven by lenders and tenants. A developer has no incentive to build expensive structured parking it does not need.
A robust market for monthly parking contracts or daily spot parking might convince developers they can get by with less parking.
I'm not sure exactly what is blocking the development of this market, but part of the problem has to be free parking on nights and weekends.
Because the city charges for parking during the day, you can almost always find an open street spot. But these are impossible to find at night (especially Thursdays through Saturdays), unless you are lucky enough for someone to vacate a spot as you drive by. Charging for parking on nights and weekends would result in a better allocation of parking. It would provide predictability for downtown visitors. It would eliminate the extra traffic caused by drivers circling the block to find an empty space. And, yes, it would also raise extra revenue for the city.
But charging for street parking would also encourage parking garages to open their spots to the public. Some garages and the surface lots do open at night. Many do not, though, and who can blame them? It's hard to compete with free parking.
Garages have to incur high fixed costs to provide spot parking -- e.g., an attendant or credit-card friendly gates. They won't make this investment unless they believe they can get a return on this investment. Increasing the demand for garage parking at night would lead more garages to make that investment.
This would increase the supply of parking when condo developments need it most. Residents are home. Ground-floor restaurants and bars are generating demand. If there were enough public spots within easy walking distance, a developer might not need to cover peak demand. That, in turn, would increase the demand for spot parking, which would encourage more garages to open, and so forth, creating a virtuous cycle and ultimately better use of existing parking.