Get Over It Austin: Less Public Parking is Better
There are a handful of ways in which you can tell Austin is still just a small town on the cusp of being a big city. Restaurants that close at 9 p.m. and don’t open on Sundays is one. Another is the attitude many Austinites have toward parking.
Parking has been a constant topic of discussion – and outrage for some – lately. Neighbors seem to spring into action over the idea of a café or bar around the corner, lamenting that they don’t want cars parked on their streets. Others think the City of Austin should provide free parking downtown and in destination areas like South Congress. I think everyone should just get over it.
Austin is a developing city thanks to the unique personalities and businesses that are already here (and have been developing here for decades) and to the encouragement of the state and local government. People like Austin for its weather, its local businesses and its quirkiness. People moving to this city are helping improve this city.
Would Austin be on the national map for renowned restaurants if chefs from across the country weren’t moving here to open them? Or if the creative classes weren’t showing a demand for them? No, and as a result, we wouldn’t have these amazing restaurants within arm’s reach. Check out our recent article on Austin’s coffee scene getting local recognition. Without so many people moving here from all kinds of places and backgrounds, this wouldn’t be happening either. Short and simple, the city is continuing on a path of creative change that was laid out in the 1970s.
The attitude it seems many people have is, “I want to enjoy all Austin has to offer, but not within walking distance of my house.” Last year, it was neighbors who wanted to block a small café from opening at the end of their street. Now, neighbors are trying to block a bar from opening on Burnet Road, of all places.
I find that attitude wildly suburban and suggest these people move to a gated McMansion community in Round Rock. A vibrant, diverse and creative city doesn’t have a single “business district” – that model of city planning, where a large central business district is surrounded by housing developments, is a failed idea that creates car dependency, pockets of crime and overweight people. One aspect I love about living in a big city – and miss in Austin – is the corner everything: a corner bar, a corner coffee shop, a corner café, a corner convenience store.
In most cities, rather than organizing neighborhood protests about parking on your street, you just deal with the problems that go along with living in a lively community. In a city like Austin, where most homes have at least a driveway if not an attached garage, I don’t understand the problem.
Increased traffic? Quit letting your pets go outside unleashed and educate your children about traffic safety … and then look up from your iPad and actually watch them. Noise? Again, if you want to live in the suburbs, that’s a great option for quiet time. Until then, you’re living in a city with a population of almost 1 million. Some noise comes with the territory. Garbage? Instead of trying to prevent a business owner from helping improve the city, solicit the City of Austin for more frequent street cleaning.
I believe we should all be doing as much as we can to encourage walkable, bikeable entertainment in all areas of the city. The more “neighborhood” options there are away from major, busy traffic corridors, the more likely people living within 2 miles of those options are to step away from their automobile and walk. This makes our city’s air and people healthier.
And the City of Austin knows that, which is why you won’t see them providing free public parking any time soon. I read recently that part of why Antone’s is moving from their downtown location is because of a lack of parking. I find that sad and wish Antone’s would stay put instead of moving somewhere with a mall-size parking lot like Emo’s did.
The tides are turning, and soon there will be more people here who understand that driving to every bar is an insane idea (how many auto-pedestrian deaths were there in 2012 again?). Those people will start taking the constantly improving public transit options, and as a result of an increase in business, those transit options will improve even more.
We don’t need more parking lots, and we don’t need less neighborhood entertainment options. We need a new attitude. Change is hard, but sometimes it’s good.