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Increased traffic does not necessarily mean increased business for downtown

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Photo by: Daryl Ontiveros | Multimedia Editor

For the first time in almost 40 years, Paper Bear owner Carol Powers is considering closing her store.

As the San Marcos City Council considers bringing two-way traffic to Guadalupe and LBJ streets, many downtown business owners are voicing their concerns. Council members postponed the voting on this agenda item, which was scheduled to take place on the 1st.

Powers said that the streets were originally two-way streets until the 1980s, and were changed to one-way to accommodate an increasing amount of traffic from the university.

“It’s strange to me that we have one-way lanes out there, and they want to change it back to two-way,” she said. “That makes no sense at all, because we a had a problem before and now we have three times the amount of students and three times the amount of traffic.”

The proposal for two-way traffic comes three years after the implementation of back-in parking, which store owners say has also hurt their businesses.

Back-in parking is hard enough on a one-way street, because it requires the driver to travel one lane over to complete the maneuver, Powers said. She thinks that with two-way traffic, it will be almost impossible.

“At first we were tremendously busy,” Powers said. “It was crazy, it was fun.”

Chloe Ashley, Barefoot manager, believes that two-way traffic could potentially help the businesses near the Square, because it will bring more traffic. The store moved to its downtown location last April, and Ashley said she has not received many complaints regarding parking, though she hears car horns throughout the day.

David Marrs, Vagabond owner, said that two-way streets would result in an even greater loss of parking.

Although many store owners and residents have not been given a reason for the change, Marrs said there are plans to build a large apartment complex on Guadalupe, which could be the persuading factor.

“What is the point? There is no point,” he said. “It doesn’t alleviate problems, it creates more problems than it’s helping.”
Marrs said he has seen several drivers attempt to back into a parking space and then give up. He also witnesses road rage, and said it happens two or three times a day when he stands outside of his store.

“Everyone that has tried back-in parking is done,” Marrs said. “They just don’t come back.”

Both Marrs and Ashley said back-in parking spaces are not always well marked. In some situations, it is easier to pull forward and vehicles are quickly ticketed.

“When they first put in back-in parking, everyone that walked in the door griped about it,” Powers said. “I’d say every third customer gripes about it now, but that’s still a lot of people.”

At the latest city council meeting, business owner Carlos Russo said the funding for converting the streets could also pay for a parking garage, which would be money better spent. Ashley said she thinks a downtown trolley of some sort would be a good idea for those that have to park far away.

Storefront parking is usually scarce, because employees and students often use those spaces.

Although there is often parking available at the courthouse, Powers said it is not convenient for those that are elderly, and Marrs estimates that 40 percent of his customers are less able-bodied. He said several customers have vowed not to come downtown, many of them locals.

There has been talk of adding parking downtown, but an official decision has not been made. Powers said the city is considering adding more spaces behind buildings, and businesses could rent the spaces for employees.

“It’s hurt our business a lot,” Powers said. “And that was not the purpose of this whole downtown revitalization.”