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Extended parking meter hours to be challenged

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TWC News: Extended parking meter hours to be challenged
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Just weeks before extended metered parking hours take effect, opponents are raising their voices.

At a rally Tuesday, Austinites Against Metered Parking Extension Downtown, or AAMPED, held a rally against the extended hours. Group leaders said the additional 6.5 hours of metered parking will keep people from coming downtown for evening entertainment, dining and shopping.

“While we're in an economic downturn, they should not be raising fees and putting more of a burden on the citizens of Austin,” member of Texans for Accountable Government Heather Fazio said.

Fazio said city leaders are going against public opinion gained from an online survey.

“8,000 citizens responded to that survey; 76-percent of them do not want this parking extension,” she said. “That ought to be the bottom line of this issue.”

City council members in favor of the longer hours--and the money it will bring--say paying both night and day is only fair to daytime visitors who already pay to park.

Austin Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole told YNN it’s a basic equity argument. Cole said the vast majority of people who come downtown after hours are there for entertainment and should be billed just the same as daytime users.

“We've certainly heard concerns come forward from the community that weren't necessarily aired before the council vote,” Austin City Council member Kathie Tovo said.

Tovo is worried volunteers at downtown nonprofits and churchgoers will have second thoughts before paying to park. She is also concerned her fellow members are not considering downtown employees who can't use public transportation.

“If they've got a shift that ends at 2 a.m. and the buses stop running at 12:30 a.m., that's not a viable alternative for them,” Tovo said.

Tovo said she and fellow Council Member Laura Morrison have an amendment to the proposed parking meter changes that would repeal or modify the extended hours. They hope to have it placed on the agenda of the next city council meeting, Thursday July 28.

The changes are set to take effect in September.

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