Parking Meters Coming to Deep Eddy Pool
By Jessica Lenamond
In the buzzing hub of restaurants, trails and parks that surround the west side of the MoPac Expressway on the Colorado River, there is an oasis of free parking at Deep Eddy Pool, but not for much longer. The Austin Parks and Recreation Department is proposing to install meters at the lot starting in March 2020.
On Sept. 13, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department notified Mayor Steve Adler and Austin City Council members of its proposal to install parking meters at Deep Eddy Pool parking lot. The lot is the last free parking in the surrounding area of the pool, Eilers Park, Butler Hike and Bike Trail, and many local restaurants and businesses. Because the surrounding parking on Veterans Drive, Stephen F. Austin Drive and Lake Austin Boulevard is metered, restaurant patrons and others often park in the Deep Eddy lot.
On Oct. 22, Anthony Segura, assistant director of the Parks and Recreation Department, and Jason Redfern, parking enterprise manager at the Austin Transportation Department, gave a presentation on this proposal at the Parks and Recreation Board meeting at the request of two board members. Members were supposed to discuss parking strategy but were cut short, tabling conversation about the meters until their next meeting on Dec. 3.
“My feeling is that establishing metered parking at Deep Eddy will open up the lot for anyone willing to pay the fee,” Paul Bardagjy, president of the nonprofit group Friends of Deep Eddy, said. “Our restaurant and bar neighbors have made little to no effort to provide parking for their clientele. The real issue is that we do not have space to allow dozens of diners from neighboring restaurants to park on our lot.”
To prevent abuse of the free parking, the Parks and Recreation Department previously put signage around the lot in fall of 2018, and park rangers have informed the public that only pool, park and trail users can park there.
“The bottom line is right now, it’s a free lot, so I can’t enforce anything,” Segura said. “So without having some meters, without having enforcement and being able to write tickets, that’s fair game and it’s open to everybody and anybody.”
By installing the meters, Redfern said that there will be more space in the lot since patrons will have to pay more to stay longer.
“Parking meters are one tool in managing demand,” Redfern said. The meters encourage “people to do what they have to do and return that parking space as quickly as possible.”
To find a solution for the swimmers of Deep Eddy, the Aquatic Division of the department proposed to give season pass holders parking permits. Occasional swimmers would receive free day parking passes when they pay the $2-$9 pool entry fee. Pool season passes cost $190.
This proposal still leaves park and trail users without a resolution because they do not pay the pool entry fee.
“Metering is unfair to most of the economic classes,” Laura Cottam-Sajbel, Parks and Recreation Board member, said. “The people that can live in West Austin and can go to these places not in their cars can also afford to pay that fee. But there are a lot of families in this town that can not.”
Segura said the department has not yet decided what hours and days of the week patrons will have to use the meters or restrictions on how long someone can park.
During his presentation to the Parks and Recreation Board, Redfern said that installing meters encourages people to use alternative modes of transportation, such as buses, scooters or bikes. Cottam-Sajbel countered that the city’s bus system is not extremely accessible, there is not adequate or safe bike parking and many people with disabilities do not have access to alternative transportation.
“You can't start metering people out of things we pay high taxes in this city to access,” Cottam-Sajbel said. “These are public amenities that you're trying to put meters on, and I am completely opposed to that. It is not equitable to the people who do not have access to pools.”
Some of the revenue from the meters will go back to Deep Eddy to improve the area through renovation projects like parking lot resurfacing and construction of accessible sidewalks and ramps, Redfern said.
Segura said he is working with the department to address the issues raised at the last Parks and Recreation Board meeting to create a better proposal that is a fair compromise for all patrons for presentation at the Dec. 3 meeting.
The final parking meter plan still must be approved by the Austin City Council, but council members have shown no opposition to the proposal.