Diana M Alba-Soular, Las Cruces Sun-News
Published 4:28 p.m. MT May 7, 2019
LAS CRUCES – Las Cruces City Councilors on Monday voted to impose, for the first time ever, a time limit to on-street parking within the downtown area.
The step, which may take effect as early as September, sets a two-hour time cap on parking on non-residential streets — like Main Street — in the heart of the city.
Here’s a look at what the approval does (and doesn’t) do:
- The ordinance assesses a two-hour limit to on-street parking within downtown.
- The limit applies during the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p. m. Mondays to Saturdays. It doesn’t apply Sundays or on public holidays, according to the resolution.
- The two-hour limit applies only to non-residential streets within a defined downtown area, known formally as the Tax Increment Development District.
- The new limit doesn’t apply to on-street parking in other parts of the city.
- The time limit also doesn’t apply to city-ownedparking lots or to privately owned parking spaces in the downtown.
- The measure doesn’t impose parking fees. But it lays the groundwork for that in the future. The imposition of fees to park will require a separate vote by the Las Cruces City Council.
City staffer: Time limit boosts customer access
Mandy Guss, business development administrator for the city, emphasized the measure doesn’t impose a fee for parking. The reason for the rule, she said, is that city staff surveyed downtown parking and found a number of the on-street parking spaces were being occupied all day by the same vehicles — likely meaning that employees of businesses were parking in them.
Guss said she hopes the new resolution will allow more downtown visitors access to businesses because on-street parking won’t be tied up by employees.
“We’re not doing this because we want people to go away from downtown,” she said. “We want to make it easier for customers to access the businesses they want to go to. It’s still free, and the parking lots have no time limit.”
City Councilor Gabe Vasquez said he’s a “an employee of the downtown, not just here but at my other place of employment.” And he admitted he regularly parks in the street parking spaces.
“While I do do that, a lot of other people do that because we can,” he said.
Still, Vasquez said he realizes cities tend to move toward charging for parking downtown. He said he uses the ParkMobile app to pay for parking in other places.
Vasquez doesn’t mind parking off the street in downtown Las Cruces.
“I’m OK with that,” he said.
City Councilor Kasandra Gandara, who sits on the city’s downtown parking committee, said the panel has been discussing the proposed time limit and held public input sessions on it. She noted New Mexico State University already has restrictions on parking, such as requiring payment if a driver doesn’t have a parking pass.
“This idea of timed parking — and paid at that — is not new to our city,” she said. “This isn’t a new concept, but what I want to remind folks about is the idea of encouraging folks to come downtown.”
City councilors voted 6-1 to pass the measure, with Mayor Ken Miyagishima dissenting. Vasquez, Gandara, City Councilor Greg Smith, City Councilor Jack Eakman, City Councilor Yvonne Flores and Mayor Pro Tem Gill Sorg voted for it.
A possible Sept. 1 start
The resolution OK’d by the council allows the time limits to take effect as early as Sept. 1. However, Guss said the city is still working out a number of logistics — such as the best way to enforce the measure — and won’t officially start the time limits until those are addressed.
“We want to roll it out smoothly,” she said. “We don’t want to do it in a way that’s not well thought out and well implemented.”
About 300 public parking spaces out of the 2,000 or so downtown will be affected by the measure, according to city staff. Another 1,000 parking spaces in the city’s center are privately owned and not affected.
The city has a request for information, or RFI, process underway seeking proposals for how to implement the new time limits. Guss said companies are submitting their proposed solutions through May 23.
Once this process wraps up, it’s likely the city would follow that up with a request for proposals procurement process, during which a specific company and proposal would be selected, Guss said. While parking meters have historically been the method to enforce parking, other options are available nowadays.
Even though the city hasn’t yet decided on the specifics of enforcement, Guss said Monday’s approval allows city staff to start publicizing the impending change.
“Obviously we want to start educating folks and letting them know this is coming,” she said.
There’s also the possibility the city could do a phased implementation of the time limits, such as by starting with Main Street and then moving to other streets in time.
City councilors also passed, in a 5-2 vote, a second related measure replacing the city’s parking regulations. City staff said the previous ordinance was outdated because of specific language relating to parking meters, and, if they were used, where they should be placed, that didn’t allow for newer parking enforcement options. Miyagishima and Eakman voted against that.
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