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Austin Converts Over 100 Paid Parking Spots to Temporary Food Pickup Zones

The Transportation Department wants to make it easier for people to pick up their meals from restaurants during the city’s ban on dine-in service

A food pickup priority zone along Sixth Street
A food pickup priority zone along Sixth Street
Nadia Chaudhury/EATX
Nadia Chaudhury is the editor of Eater Austin covering food and pop culture, as well as a photographer, writer, and frequent panel moderator and podcast guest.

Many Austin restaurants and food trucks pivoted to takeout and delivery service last week as a result of the city’s mandate to shut down dine-in service in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. In order to make it easier for people to actually pick up food during the pandemic, the Austin Transportation Department (ATD) has designated free food pickup parking zones throughout the city.

Regular paid parking spots were converted into pickup areas starting last week. At these chosen locations, of which there are currently over 100, ATD installed blue and white signage declaring “Food Pick-Up Priority,” alongside symbols of a knife, fork, and spoon. Some zones are designated for 15-minute pickup windows, while others limit cars to five minutes.

“The success of local business is key to the vitality and economic strength of our city,” explained Jason T. Redfern, the parking enterprise manager at ATD. These pickup parking zones are meant to encourage residents to go out and frequent restaurants in a safe and easier manner.

These specific sites were determined by a combination of factors, as measured by several databases, including concentration of restaurants; concentration specifically of takeout options (many of which are new just as of the last week); and lack of regular parking options. ATD is also taking requests for these zones through its website.

Austin’s ban on dine-in service currently runs through Friday, May 1. Redfern says he imagines that, after the dine-in ban is up, the department will reevaluate the situation to see what makes sense.