Visitors to downtown San Marcos who want to park in a space for longer than two hours will no longer get a free ride after the City Council voted Tuesday night to move all spaces downtown to two-hour time limits and step up enforcement of limits.
The move comes after months of discussions related to downtown parking enforcement and how to ensure there are spaces available for customers and employees of downtown businesses. Some areas of downtown already have two-hour parking limits, while others have one-hour limits and some have none.
“What we’re trying to do is make [downtown parking rules]as simple as possible,” said Kevin Burke, San Marcos economic development administrator, who has been overseeing the new downtown parking management program. “Right now, we have quite a bit of a patchwork.”
Under the new rules, spaces within an area roughly bound by Wood Street to the north, MLK Jr. Drive to the south, CM Allen Parkway to the east and Moore Street to the west will be designated as two-hour parking Mon.-Fri. from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Spaces surrounding the courthouse square are under the control of Hays County and will be monitored by the Hays County constable.
The city is also investing in license-plate reading technology, or LPR, that make enforcement of the new parking rules more efficient, officials said.
Burke said city staff will maintain consistent communication with business owners to ensure the program is working as intended.
Council Member Lisa Prewitt raised concern that moving all spaces downtown to two-hour limits would actually lengthen the amount of time allowed in some spaces on the edge of downtown closest to the university. Council members expressed concern that students could park in spaces intended for downtown businesses and spend two hours on campus before returning without violating the new parking rules.
Burke said the city believes most students are going to campus for longer than an hour. He said although the city cannot guarantee the new parking rules will completely stop abuse and misuse of parking spaces downtown, he believes the new measures will reduce the number of students using downtown spaces to go to campus.
“It’s always conceivable that students are going to be able to go to campus for less than two hours and come back,” Burke said. “We hope [the new rules and enforcement]will decrease it because most students we believe don’t go to campus for two hours or less. We hope to decrease that activity.”
Mayor John Thomaides said the enforcement of parking time limits fits into the city’s broad plan for downtown.
“We’ve recognized that we have a problem, and we’ve created a downtown parking management process and we funded it,” Thomaides said. “We funded LPR, and it’s going to lead to parking meters. That’s the plan.”
Burke said the city’s next step will be to purchase the LPR technology, which will likely happen before October. Enforcement can begin once the technology is purchased, staff is trained on how to use it and two-hour parking signs are placed throughout downtown.
“I’m very happy that we’re willing to take this step,” Thomaides said. “If you’re over two hours, it’s going to be too painful to do it over and over again. You will get ticketed. LPR will not miss you.”