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Officials to solve downtown parking problems

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Cars parked in areas with timed parking will soon be subject to the new ticketing system.
Cars parked in areas with timed parking will soon be subject to the new ticketing system.

Photo by Elza Taurins | Staff Photographer

The limitations of parking in San Marcos are more apparent as the city and university grow, leading officials to take action.

Parking on campus and around San Marcos entered a stage of reform. This is likely due in part to students taking to the Square to find free parking.

Students park south of campus to avoid additional fees, holding spots on the Square that would otherwise be for customers throughout the day. This has put a strain on the few places there are to park.

Kevin Burke, the economic development administrator for the City of San Marcos, said the city has been working toward a solution to the parking problem since 2016 when the Parking Management Program began. The first steps were to contract with Kimley-Horn, a planning and engineering firm, and to host a series of stakeholder meetings.

“The intent was always to move forward to a system of paid parking downtown,” Burke said. “Not that the council has ever determined we’re going to start charging for parking downtown, just that when we hire a consultant, we define a scope of work. In that scope, it was very clear that we were moving toward the council making that decision.”

Community stakeholders’ ideas centered around the idea of increased enforcement to limit long-term parking in the downtown area, rather than implementing paid parking.

“One of the solutions that came to light was the implementation of the license plate recognition system,” Burke said. “All that really does is extend the ability of our parking enforcement staff to do their job more efficiently. It’s not as easy as installing a bunch of parking meters downtown and calling it a day; it’s going to be a nuanced plan. That’s what we’re expecting and we want to lay that out for the council.”

Josh Martinez, advertising junior, is a commuter student from Austin. He doesn’t like to come to campus without his car because of the lack of information about the shuttle system and the inflexibility of his schedule.

“I have 8 a.m. classes every day, so I’m usually here early enough to find parking on the Square or in the various spots close to campus,” Martinez said. “I choose to do this rather than buying a parking pass because the pass is expensive, and I’ve decided that I’ll take my chances that I don’t get enough tickets to reach the cost of a parking pass.”

Martinez said the advice he gave would be unpopular, but if freshmen, due to their proximity, were not allowed to have parking passes it would leave more room for off-campus and commuter students.

“I understand why the city would want to step up enforcement, but I don’t think the answer to the parking problem should be to give more parking tickets to students,” Martinez said.

Andy Howard, owner of the HUB Cyclery on the Square, attributes most of his success to Texas State students.

“I wish I had more space,” Howard said. “That’s one of the biggest handicaps I have here… I only have two parking spots in the back, I could use 20.”

Howard acknowledges the pressure it puts on business for his customers to have to park down the road by HEB, which is another obstacle the HUB Cyclery has to overcome.

“Parking is a big issue, I mean it really is,” Howard said. “That’s the only thing that’s made me look for other locations.”

For Burke, this has pros and cons. According to Burke, the City of San Marcos generated about $1.4 million in sales tax revenue downtown because of activity on the Square, even with limited parking, according to Burke.

“The way I always try to look at downtown is we’re incredibly lucky to have the problems that we do have,” Burke said.

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