The city of Fort Worth generates an annual revenue of around $140,000 from parking around City Hall — and tickets for those who don’t renew their meters.
Next year, the city intends to cut that revenue dramatically by making parking free for residents signed up to speak at morning council meetings. Under the new proposal, presented to the City Council in a Tuesday work session, the city manager’s office would buy and distribute coupons to speakers for parking at the Houston Street Garage.
Council members expressed support for the measure, which is scheduled to take effect in January, but District 9 council member Elizabeth Beck wanted to see the city take it a step farther.
“It’s important to not limit it to registered speakers … If they come into the chamber to attend the City Council meeting, that should be enough to warrant free parking,” Beck said.
Monty Hall, assistant director of transportation and public works, said his office would review the proposal and work to expand it as Beck requested.
Currently, the parking rates for the Houston Street Garage range from $3 for 20 minutes to $22 for 12-24 hours. Come January, residents seeking a coupon will need to present their parking ticket to city staff, who would then confirm that they’re a registered speaker. Once a speaker is finished at the council meeting, they can use the coupon to exit the garage free of charge.
“This will be a great access for our city and those that come to the meetings during the daytime,” District 8 council member Chris Nettles said.
A coupon program is already in place internally for city departments, whose staff can buy coupons for guests attending scheduled board and committee meetings.
The proposal to expand the coupon program came after reporting by the Fort Worth Report showed attending city meetings can be costly for residents and disincentivize people from participating in their local government processes.
Residents who chose to park in metered parking spots were often on the receiving end of a ticket when a city meeting ran over and they weren’t able to renew their parking. The city’s FW Park app doesn’t allow residents to renew their parking in the same zone once two hours have elapsed. That’s by design, according to Peter Elliott, parking manager for the city’s transportation and public works department. Elliot previously told the Report short-term metered parking is essential for creating high parking turnover to open up spaces for residents.
The future of free parking is murkier after fall 2023, when construction on the new City Hall is set to be completed. The existing parking structure already doesn’t provide enough space for city staff, and contractors are tasked with adding two floors to the existing parking structure and an additional parking garage to the back area of the property.
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Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter.