The changes will be brought to council in the form of ordinances, likely by May.
“The demand for downtown parking has just exploded, and we don’t really have any more parking spaces downtown,” Council Member Jane Hughson said.
The changes include:
- Implementing license-plate reading technology. The technology will help police better track how long cars have been parked in a space downtown.
- Enforcing a two-hour time limit on all parking spaces west of the Union Pacific Corp. railroad tracks that cross Guadalupe Street and LBJ Drive. Many spaces throughout downtown are already subject to a two-hour limit, but enforcement has been lax, officials said. The time limit will be enforced from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
- Implementing a downtown employee parking program. Council members discussed the possibility of utilizing a remote parking lot with shuttle service to take downtown employees to work. Council Member Lisa Prewitt said she has spoken with companies that provide shuttle services, and the cost of a program similar to what the city is considering could be about $110,000 per year. Kevin Burke, who is heading up the downtown parking project, said specific details of how the employee parking program would work will be brought back to council by May.
- Identify additional parking space downtown. Burke estimated the city could create an additional 40 new on-street parking spaces throughout downtown.
Travis Kelsey and Kyle Mylius, two downtown business owners, spoke in support of an employee parking program.
Kelsey, who owns the Tap Room, said downtown businesses could not “compete with parking,” citing restaurants and businesses that have opened on I-35 in the city in recent years.
“We have a crisis downtown,” Kelsey said. “Local businesses, downtown people, we run on small margins. Any hit is hard for us to stay up. We’re not Torchy’s Tacos. These are your mom and pops. These people live in your community, raise families and pay taxes here.”
Mylius said his three downtown businesses, including the Root Cellar Café, Root Cellar Bakery and Rhea’s Ice Cream, employ 50 people. Many of the parking spots downtown, which employees at downtown businesses need to use, are utilized by university students, he said.
Mylius said the license-plate reading technology, which will help increase enforcement of two-hour time limits, and the employee-parking program could provide a solution to the area’s parking issues.
“If we can provide a comprehensive employee solution in addition to the increase enforcement, I believe you will see an unbelievable amount of parking open up over night,” Mylius said. “But you cannot have one without the other, however. Without the employee solution the LPR enforcement will make many downtown businesses like my own literally unstaffable.”