South Congress Parking

The Popularity of SoCo Means Parking Can Be a Nightmare

South Congress Yard Dog
Kylie McLaughlin/Getty Images

The South Congress Avenue entertainment district stretches from Riverside Drive down to Oltorf Street. Of course, as the area has become hipper, many apartments and other businesses farther south also use the SoCo moniker.

Since the north-south street has residential neighborhoods on either side of it, the bulk of the parking is on Congress Avenue itself. In the most densely packed part of the street, roughly from Academy Drive, near the Continental Club, to West Mary Street, the parking on the street consists of diagonal spaces that you must back into. This approach was intended to protect the safety of cyclists and pedestrians, but the “parking rage” it sometimes generates, some would argue, isn’t very safe at all.

Back-In Parking Technique

The trickiest part is actually spotting a space as you travel down the busy two-lane road. If you spot the space after you’ve already passed it, it’s probably too late. The last thing you want to do is stop abruptly and get rear-ended.

The best bet is to drive slowly and go ahead and put your blinker on if you think you see an open spot. This way, the cars behind you will most likely go around, if only because you’re moving too slowly. Once you’re in position to back up, it’s all about the angle. It’s rare that you’ll be lucky enough to stop in just the right spot and have the right angle to go into the space.

This is one of the many sources of frustration with this approach. To get the right angle, you may have to pull forward and into the other lane to approach the space from the right angle. And, of course, cyclists and pedestrians passing by can easily break your concentration. Once you get the angle right, ease into the spot slowly. It can also be difficult to see how far back to go.

According to Austin-American Statesman columnist Ben Wear, reverse-angle parking is now spreading all over town. There will soon be over 600 reverse-angle spaces in Austin. Though the general public seems to despise the trend, it’s marching forward anyway because it allows for more parking in the same amount of space, at least when compared to parallel parking. The number of accidents on South Congress have also gone down since the change was implemented, so it looks like reverse-angle parking is here to stay. 

Payment Kiosks

Most of the reverse-angle spaces are equipped with payment kiosks that serve more than one parking space. As such, the kiosk, may not be directly behind your car. You can pay with a credit card, and then you simply place a sticker on the interior of your windshield.

About the only thing everyone agrees on is that leaving the spaces is fairly easy. You should have plenty of visibility as you ease into traffic. Keep an eye out for cyclists, particularly since some have been known to drink-and-bike in this part of town.

Guero's Taco Bar on South Congress in Austin
Emily Starbuck Gerson

Parking Garage Behind Guero’s

A parking garage is tucked in behind Guero’s, at 1412 South Congress Avenue. The minimum price is $10, but Hopdoddyand some (not all) stores and restaurants will validate your parking. Check the sign near the garage entrance for a full list of participating vendors. You’ll need to enter and exit via Elizabeth Street. The entrance is basically in an alleyway and very easy to overlook. Make sure you drive very slowly because pedestrians are constantly crisscrossing the area in no coherent pattern. Driving slowly will also help you figure out exactly where the entrance is and read the other (small) informational signs. It's a cramped space, and many people get confused on the way in. 

New Hotel and Food Trucks Compete for Space

With the opening of the retro-chic South Congress Hotel, parking is now even harder to find on South Congress Avenue. The three-story hotel has eaten up space once devoted to food trucks and parking. The food trucks are now largely relegated to side streets and a small plot of land near Elizabeth Street. If you don’t mind a bit of a hike, you can sometimes still find free parking on the street near Fulmore Middle School at 201 East Mary Street. While you’re in the area, you may want to check out C. Boy’s Heart and Soul, a fun club featuring rhythm and blues music. It’s owned by the same guy who runs the Continental Club down the road, and it has a similar vibe. 

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