It was one year ago this week that the city began offering free parking on Tuesdays in city garages. While the city may be losing a small amount of revenue, officials believe the economic impact has offset any losses.
"It’s really for the residents and the small businesses," said District one City Councilman Diego Bernal, whose district encompasses much of downtown. "This is a way for us to help return the city to the residents of San Antonio so they can share it equally with tourists."
Bernal originally suggested offering free parking at city lots and garages on Tuesday evenings. So far 34,000 vehicles have been parked on Tuesdays in the past year, which is about 50 percent more than previous years. Bernal said the idea was to get people back into downtown.
"You take what I call the least sexy day of the week -- Tuesday -- where businesses have the least foot traffic, and you create a small incentive to get people down here. Hopefully they’ll make a little money and people will discover this city again," said Bernal.
Several dozen businesses are now participating by offering specials during the week to attract customers. Mayor Julián Castro said he believes the downtown Tuesday effect will last well into the future.
“My hope that this is benefiting the restaurants, and the shops and the bars downtown, as well as the hotels,” hesaid.
Sandra Puente, the general manager at Hotel Havana, visitors at the bar during the week have increased.
“What it’s done is it’s help people realized that downtown is more than just a tourist place to be. There’s a lot more to downtown and the fact that they’re offering free parking really makes it a perk," Puente said.
Downtown Tuesday’s free parking runs from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.