How to Park Like a Pro in Austin (Updated June 2020)
by Brad Pauly
on Tuesday, March 26th, 2019 at 12:00pm.
In our bustling city, parking your car can be difficult. Whether you're concerned about the parking laws in your neighborhood, or want to know how best to tackle parking downtown during busy hours, we hope this guide helps you park like a true-blue Austin resident. And hopefully, you'll avoid tickets or costly towing incidents while you're at it.
Lots of parking rules in neighborhoods are self-explanatory. For example, red curbs indicating fire zones are always no-parking zones for everyone except firefighters responding to emergency calls.
Can I park in my front yard? Not usually. Many neighborhoods in Austin have adopted Front Yard Parking ordinances that prevent you from parking in the front or side yards of your home without a paved driveway or paved parking space. Check the map of neighborhoods who've adopted these laws to be sure.
Can I park a motor home in front of my house? Yes, for up to 72 hours. City codes allow for self-propelled motor homes to remain in one place for 3 continuous days. After that, you'll have to find a different place to park it.
Can a big rig park on my street? Probably not. Vehicles over 9,000 pounds cannot be parked on almost all streets in Austin. (Hummer H2s weigh approximately 6,000 pounds, for reference.)
Austin city guidelines create a small boundary within which vehicles over 9,000 pounds can park, which can be found here. However, if your neighbors are parking very large, industrial vehicles on your neighborhood street, it's likely against the law.
An exception to the law includes vehicles parked expressly for unloading. I.E., moving trucks and vans are safe, as long as someone is actively moving things in and out of them.
How to Park in Downtown Austin
Are there parking garages downtown? Yes! The Downtown Austin Alliance has created a very compact and helpful map of parking lots and garages downtown that you can use anytime you're navigating. In general, garages can be the easiest places to find consistent parking, since street and metered spots will fill up quickly if there's an event downtown.
Is there free parking in Austin? Yes, typically at night, or on weekends. Your best bet for finding free parking (at least downtown) is to wait until after the meters stop charging.
Here are the hours metered parking is in effect in Downtown Austin: Monday-Wednesday: 8am - 6pm Thursday-Friday: 8am - midnight Saturday: 11am - midnight Parking is free at meters on Sundays throughout Austin.
What's with the back-in only spaces on South Congress? Back-in parking on streets is often considered safer. Though backing into a spot takes longer initially, it's much easier and safer to leave the spot facing forward. Merging with traffic from the South Congress spots driving forward is much easier for the average driver than attempting to back into it.
Make certain you are parking properly in these angled spaces, as you can receive citations if you don't back-in.
* Free parking available for first two hours, rates increase thereafter † Meters become unavailable after 9pm Thursday through Sunday
How Overnight Parking in Austin Works
The city of Austin has a great pub crawl and nightlife experience. As such, Austin government has created some guidelines and systems to help patrons get home safe without worrying about their cars overnight.
First of all, parking meters in downtown Austin have specific buttons to add fare for overnight parking. This makes it easy to pay for your car's parking space while you're waiting for your safe ride home after a night out.
But if you got a little forgetful and didn't pay the fees ahead of time, don't worry too much. With Proof of Responsible Ride (which can be a timestamped taxi/bus receipt) and the completion of a form from the City of Austin's website, you can waive your parking ticket!
What happens if you forget to buy time for the next day and leave your car overnight? The Austin Transportation Department does not tow vehicles. If you get a parking ticket but made the responsible decision of taking a taxi or bus home, we’ll waive the ticket! Bring your ticket and taxi or bus receipt in with a completed Ticket Waiver Form. -AustinTexas.gov
Late Night Public Transportation in Austin
Capital Metro offers 5 different "Night Owl" bus routes that can ferry you back and forth up until 3am Monday through Saturday nights. Routes cost $1.25 each way, but passes are available for more frequent users. Night Owl bus routes all begin and end at the intersection of 6th Street and Congress Ave downtown. Route numbers and end points are as follows:
481 to North Lamar (Buses run every 20 minutes)
483 to Riverside (Buses run every 35 minutes)
484 to South Lamar (Buses run every 35 minutes)
485 to Cameron (Buses run every 30 minutes)
486 to South Congress (Buses run every 30 minutes)
You can also look into the MetroRail, which has a final departure at 12:30am and runs through the center of Austin. Extreme stops at each end of the rail are 4th Street near Trinity downtown, and US-183 north of 2243 in Leander. The rail serves 9 stops in total throughout Austin. Single ride prices are $3.50 for the MetroRail.