17 thoughts on “Parking in Downtown San Antonio: No Perfect Solutions

  1. Just turn it into a giant sidewalk! Sever a couple of roads and place parking at the very ends of those spots. Then add a giant escalator like the one in Hong Kong. City governments are pretty good at eminent domain seizures so why not just seize a couple of buildings (joking) and turn them into pedestrian hangouts with skywalks and parking.

    Yeah, the best bet here is to actually come together (again) as a community and discuss this. Downtown residents should (of course) have a say in how their community is used and the property owners (as well as the City of San Antonio-COSA) need to be a part of the conversation as well. All stakeholders should be present and accounted for. Without that, without community discourse that results in immediate action, there is no point.

  2. Wonderful piece, love the new sign. Some of what makes parking difficult is there are so many empty stores. Austin’s downtown has many stores that are open during the day and it does make a long walk more interesting. I enjoy walking down Houston, N st Mary’s, Commerce. Broadway leading into downtown is extremely boring and there is nothing to look at, Ave B has a more urban vibe. I will say that parking can be as high as $20-$30 during fiesta, but during Austin’s SXSW I can park for $10 on congress, and free on Sundays. I’ll admit there is good reason for the variable price but it does make the buyer feel like they are being squeezed where others don’t find it necessary. I can max out on a regular day at $7 in LA, $7 Austin, $7 NOLA, and $98 NYC. I know our tourist population makes it easy to charge $10-$15 and fix existing issues tomorrow, but it’s also what’s hurting residential participation.

    The city being a piece of government isn’t used to marketing and being graded like a business is. If the mayor wants something the news will just show up, but real marketing actually requires a good pitch and being graded on outcomes. There’s no eminent domain, taxation options, or cash incentives for good marketing, your grade is pass, or fail.

    In this city getting a good story on the news or having Randy Beamer rant about why people should support the city has never been enough. We need actual work and changes to make that happen, and yes persuasion and branding are huge factors.

  3. Parking wouldn’t be such an issue if people would ride the bus. People are required to spend a lot of time waiting and standing for their cars (gas stations, maintenance, traffic, tickets, DMV, accidents), but don’t want to walk a block & wait 5 mins for the next bus (use a schedule).

  4. Not sure where to start this comment, so I’ll begin with offering the correction that most inner-city neighborhoods (at least the ones nearest downtown) were not built during the infancy of the automotive era. These were built well before. This city was served primarily by streetcars until 1933 and buses continued this function well into the 1940s. This includes neighborhoods spanning 3 or more miles from the core.

    The street network is not a grid in downtown, making it less intuitive when relating transportation to location unless you are quite familiar with downtown. The service industry and developers are given priority in the parking discussion whether it is de facto or explicit. Public transportation as it should be used is not even part of the discussion.

    In this article you discuss Streetcar, though only in the context of “once it’s built, there will be more parking available because of lane reconfigurations.” Other times that transit is part of the discussion, people suggest that parking should be available just outside of downtown, then transit used to circulate people to their destinations. Park & Ride is a commute solution, not a circulation solution. The reality is that downtown San Antonio has tons of parking that is really cheap. Our officials don’t recognize this because hotels and developers say otherwise. Is peak parking stock ideal if your a hotel or developer? Absolutely. Is it needed if you’re a user of those locations? Not really. If there is demand for the product, people will use it. I go downtown all the time for business and pleasure. I either take the bus or find a place thats free and near my destination. This is actually very simple. I demand something downtown and I go get it without having to pay or even drive, and its easy.

    Downtown San Antonio is growing up. To expand on the this analogy, it appears at the moment that downtown is a teenager with tons of potential that lives comfortably in a good home. It’s time to go to college and we will have to get some loans. Eventually, we will need to get a job and start paying our own bills. Life costs money and its difficult, but you can figure it out and become successful. If downtown wants to be successful, we’ll need to learn how to deal with things like saying no or making hotels and developers actually give things to get things. The rest of us will need to learn to pay for parking and use transit and walk.

    If the arguement against using transit as a real solution to parking in downtown San Antonio is “that’s all fine and good, but that’s not what people are doing now,” that is insufficient and terribly short-sighted, and perhaps even a bit snobby. I can guarantee that whatever the solutions are that are being discussed are not what people are doing now. Maybe instead of spoiling, we should make our teenage downtown get a job to pay for the extra things they want. People coming from well outside of downtown should try park & rides located at 410 and 1604. Express buses take you as close to your destination as almost any parking space will get you (you have to walk from bus stops the same as parking spaces). Inner-city residents should take the short bus ride to downtown, which gets you just as close as well in as much time, and you don’t even need to worry about how confusing it can be to drive around downtown. If this is not what people are doing now, then suggest they should and help them understand how instead of dismissing it because you don’t understand. Its easy, its cheap, its safe, though its unfamiliar. Instead of trying to move buses out of downtown, we should be trying to make them work for downtown better. THAT should be the discussion.

      • Thank you, Worker, for clarifying a very important point about the inner-city neighborhoods, some of which were built before cars. Many homes do not have driveways or garages. The public street is the only option for residential parking.

        As for residential parking, some of my inner-city neighbors have multiple, large vehicles. (I wonder why they live here). But other neighbors have already moved to small, economical cars or none at all.

        Yet the street remains an issue.

        Not only were the homes built before cars, the streets were too. My street is so narrow that when people park on both sides (and they do), there is no room for two cars driving in opposite directions to pass. And then you should see the school bus and UPS truck navigate this mess.

        Overlay on that the downtown workers looking for free parking, and it’s a nightmare that deserves a better plan than the one the City is recommending for Arsenal street.

        Then there’s the navigation mess described in the article. A mess created by City leadership willing to do anything “to get the business.”

        Drive from 281 toward Presa on Florida any night, and the multiple, reflecting signs will make you laugh. Do this. Don’t do that. Stop here. What a joke. An eyesore. A perfect vision of a City on the Rise. Yes, it’s about time for a more radical approach.

  5. Our city “leaders” are, for the most part, profoundly ignorant of the most basic principles of city planning. Much of the elementary wisdom in this field (e.g. uninterrupted street grids, public occupancy type at ground floor, efficiency of streetside parking, etc.) was well-studied and understood before many of our local politicians were even born. But you know, I don’t fault them so much for being ignorant, as for being so stupidly stubborn. I’m profoundly ignorant about the innards of my automatic transmission, so when it stopped working, I at least had the sense to find the best expert I could afford and entrust him to do his thing. Had I approached it like CoSA, I would’ve asked the mechanic’s advice, feigned some interest, and then done the opposite of what he said.

  6. The parking problem is not the only factor that makes driving downtown a nightmare.
    The city has narrowed some streets and/or made them two-way (such as Houston) which impedes traffic flow.
    Other streets have become ‘Bus Only’ lanes (such as southbound Navarro by the Central Library) which diverts traffic to other avenues.
    Some streets have been totally and permanently blocked (such as northbound and southbound Main Plaza) just to make it ‘purdy’ for the foot-bound tourist.
    Then there are streets that have been blocked by ’eminent domain’ to provide parking for the ‘important people’ who work in the adjacent buildings (such as south Main by the Courthouse and by the H-E-B corporate office).
    Occasionally, downtown streets are closed for repairs or special events. Such closures create other bottle-necks.
    And don’t get me started about an entire neighborhood (King William) which seems to be striving to become a ‘gated community.’
    The city and county must realize the people who pay for public streets (the taxpayer) should have the right to use these public streets!

  7. Page:

    Where it is metioned ” The other side of the street flanks H-E-B headquarters and is a tow-away zone. ” Well there is still a small space adjacent to the H.E.B. commercial gate on East Arsenal adjacent to the riverwalk. I have observed folks who work downtown, H.E.B. as well as visitors to H.E.B. park there at this spot. It can park/accomodate perhaps 5/6 vehicles, depending on their size of course. I pass by this area every weekday mornings and have seen H.E.B. (especially since I see them walking to the employee entrance on Arsenal.) employees/H.E.B. visitors and others who are walking to the downtown area.

    Either way, I once worked downtown and utilized a parking lot for my own personal vehicle. I spoke to a police officer and this is what I understood…

    When it comes to downotwn public parking. Parking is free at meters after 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday. All day Sunday it is free until Monday morning starting at 8:00 a.m. However, if the city grants a free parking meter holiday on a federally recognized Monday holiday i.e., Martin Luther King, Columbus Day, Veterans Day… Then this gives the parker a free meter holiday for that particular Monday. This goes the same for Commercial Loading Zone parking spots. Monday through Friday after 6:00 p.m. All day Sunday it is free. And if I further undestood this correctly: Commercial Loading Zones are not enforced on Saturdays starting at noon thus giving the parker another free parking spot on Saturday in downtown San Antonio, TX.

    Perhaps this parking enforcement might have changed by the CIty of San Antonio parking enforcement? But on past Saturday ‘s I have parked at Commercial Loading Zones starting at mid-afternnon with no citations issued to me.

    However, a fellow who works for a private parking lot group downtown San Antonio said that free parking for those with handicap parking plates/hanging tags is not part of free parking at their lots. Parkers with these handicap/hanging tags have been towed away from private parking lots in the past if they did not pay up the parkign rates in full. And these parkers have not been happy about this towing situation. Yet, that is life.

    Greyhound Bus on St. Mary’s Street has a commercial package pickup parking lot facing St. Marks Episcopal Church West Parking Lot. And this is for commercial package pickup lot only and nothing else. Not even if you are on business (picking up/dropping off passengers, purchasing bus tickets… at the Greyhound Bus Terminal next door. Even these folks on Greyhound business have been towed away from the commercial package pickup parking lot. If they did not go to package pickup to either pickup or dropoff commercial packages. And the towing company is Bexar Towing who has made local news regarding their business practice.

    Oh well getting back to the parkers who have handicap license plates/hanging tags. They have free parking at city meters and perhaps city garages for that reason. Yet, it does not apply to private parking lot groups. And since Bexar Towing is part of a majority private parking lots enforcement for downtown San Antonio… I would rather pay the set rate. It would be a lot cheaper that a tow/impound fee(s).

    Yet, I agree that downtown San Anotnio could use an upgrade when it comes to public parking.

  8. You’re just a tourist who doesn’t know where the free parking is. I’ve been living downtown for two years and have never payed for parking. There’s over two thousand free parking spots that never fill up (even on holidays). Explore the city, learn, then criticize.

    • As a 35-year resident of San Antonio, including several gigs in and around the downtown area, I would be fascinated to know about these 2000 free parking spaces. If you would like to share your information, perhaps we could create a map infographic to share with our Rivard Report readers. It would be an incredible civic hack!!!

  9. And people wonder why they do San Antonio’s a hick-town still? No wonder here at this is yet another area where they make no sense here. More great image from the city leaders.

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