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    Zzinet News
    WEDNESDAY, MAY 01, 2013
    Washington Avenue Corridor Soon to See Parking Congestion Improvements
    Alex Wang
    alex@zzi.net


    New Policy Tool Manages Extreme Parking Congestion and Strengthens Economic Development in Growing Community


    Houston, TX - After months of preparation and planning, Houston¡¯s first Parking Benefit District (PBD) along the Washington Avenue Corridor is scheduled to take effect on May 1, 2013. Parking meters along the Corridor will begin operating every Monday through Sunday, from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.


    The Washington Corridor PBD is bounded by Houston Avenue, Center Boulevard, Lillian Street/Decatur Street and Westcott Street. Houston City Council approved the PBD on December 12, 2012.


    ¡°This is a huge step in the right direction for the City of Houston,¡± said Don Pagel, Deputy Director for the City of Houston's Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department. ¡°With hundreds of people moving into Houston each day, parking will continue to get worse and worse over time. We are glad to be one of the first, and certainly the largest, cities to adopt such an innovative strategy to reduce parking congestion and generate new revenues for the community.¡±


    A PBD is a defined area, typically along commercial corridors, in which a portion of the revenue generated from parking meters is returned to the district to finance community projects. One-hundred percent of such payments to meters elsewhere in the City are subject to transfer into Houston¡¯s General Fund. However, in the Washington Avenue PBD, approximately 60 percent of the revenue from the paid parking spaces along the PBD will return to the district where it will fund neighborhood projects such as landscaping, street maintenance, public safety, lighting, sidewalk and pedestrian improvements, and more. The remaining 40 percent will go to a fund that offsets the district's expenses.


    An advisory committee, appointed by the Mayor and approved by City Council, will decide how the revenue is used based on community feedback during public meetings. The committee is comprised of seven people who live or work in the district.


    The PBD is meant to manage the Corridor¡¯s supply and demand so that parking is more convenient and easy for drivers in one of the City¡¯s portfolio of once-stagnant areas that has seen rapid and dense mixed-use redevelopment. Drivers can pay for the meters with their credit card or via a phone where they can ¡°feed the meter¡± with a simple click of a button from anywhere using the Parkmobile App. Houston¡¯s PBD plan also includes the designation of permit parking areas for residents and business owners of the corridor. Permit parking is effective Thursday ¨C Sunday, 6 p.m. ¨C 2 a.m.


    ¡°This Parking Benefit District is a trial run,¡± said Pagel. ¡°We will constantly look at what works and what doesn¡¯t and then decide whether or not this type of project is something that should be implemented all over Houston¡¯s community.¡±


    Though the Washington Avenue Corridor is the first PBD in Houston, this parking strategy has proved successful in reducing parking congestion and generating new economic development revenues in other parts of the country. For example, a PBD in Boulder, Colorado resulted in a 12 percent increase in carpooling, reducing parking demand by 850 spaces. The first year of a PBD implementation in Old Pasadena, California resulted in a 100 percent increase in sales tax revenues, creating a cycle of reinvestment in the district. In Texas, a PBD in Austin resulted in a 10 percent growth in sales tax and a 16 percent growth in mixed beverage receipts.


    ¡°It¡¯s no secret that finding a parking space in Houston, especially along the Washington Corridor, is getting more difficult every day it seems,¡± said Pagel. ¡°Something had to be done proactively before it got completely out of control in that area. We worked closely with members of the community to develop this program. The Parking Benefit District provides an opportunity to better manage the curbside parking and generate funding for the community, helping the overall economic development of the Corridor.¡±


    The PBD will undergo formal City Council review 18 months after implementation, adjusting the revenue split and other variables as necessary. Additionally, the PBD will undergo ongoing evaluation of the district¡¯s performance.


    For more information on the Washington Avenue PBD, please visit www.houstonpbd.org. Visit http://www.houstontx.gov/parking/ for more information about the City of Houston's Parking Management Division.


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