AUSTIN, Texas -- Many say finding a parking spot in downtown Austin can be a real nightmare.

"Oh, it takes forever to find a spot! It's just circling and circling and circling," said Carly Carlock, an Austinite who was late to work Thursday because she couldn't find a spot.

The Downtown Austin Alliance is looking into the issue.It recently conducted a study with the help of a transportation planning consulting firm.

"Even at peak times, about 30 percent of parking spots sit empty, that's 20,000 empty parking spaces in downtown Austin," said Jeffrey Tumlin, of Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates.

That includes private parking garages that are only open to monthly parkers during normal business hours. The alliance and firm are looking into the possibility of changing that.

"For example, having an organization like the Downtown Alliance lease surplus parking, hold liability and manage that parking for the betterment of downtown," said Tumlin.

Another potential parking fix is to change meter rates. Experts say charging more for prime spots and less for ones further away would increase the availability of spots.

"Parking is more expensive than it should be in parts of downtown and still not expensive enough to create a reasonable hope of an available space in the core of downtown," said Tumlin.

"I think that would motivate people to park a little further away but if it's pouring rain, there are disadvantages to that as well," said Bob Oldreive, an Austinite.

Some are completely opposed to the idea.

"I think that's really ridiculous," said Carlock.

They feel it could cater more to the wealthy. Others say they'll consider any option if it means they're able to find a spot. The consulting firm will present a final strategy and recommendations to the alliance early next year.