HOUSTON -- Free parking along Seawall Boulevard in Galveston ends this Saturday. City leaders announced Wednesday that Galveston police will begin enforcing the voter-approved paid parking system this weekend.
“We feel great accomplishment in seeing this parking plan launch,” said Galveston Police Department Chief Henry S. Porretto. “The project has been complex and is the culmination of many staff hours and cooperation. We worked diligently to find the best solution and carry out the wishes of our voters and look forward to realizing the Seawall improvements in the future.”
But the system is unique and one that Galveston visitors, and some residents, are concerned about. There are no parking meters. Instead the city has installed parking signs along both sides of the Seawall between 6th and 69th streets and 81st to 103rd. The area between 69th and 81st will remain free. The signs instruct parkers to call either an 866 number or visit the website www.paybyphone.com for instructions. Using a mobile app, the internet, or a mobile phone visitors to the Seawall will be instructed to enter credit card information and their car license number for the $1 an hour, $8 a day, or $25 for an entire year fee.
Galveston parking enforcement will be outfitted with computer equipment that allows them access to the same computer database to determine, in real time, which cars are paid for and which ones aren’t.
“I think it takes the charm away from Galveston,” said Houston resident Alethea Dollison who has enjoyed free parking along the Seawall for 50 years. “And I’m disappointed that they’re doing that.”
“Wow that sounds like a hassle just to come down to the beach,” said Galveston tourist Steven Hale. “I’d rather swipe a credit card or put some coins in the thing. That’s ridiculous. That’s gonna be a mess.”
“If you have a cell phone you can do that. But what if you can’t afford a cell phone,” said Galveston resident Andrew Murphy. “Well then you go on the internet. What if you don’t have internet access? There’s a lot of people who don’t.”
City leaders will unveil the system at a Friday news conference to iron out details and to calm any lingering complaints or fears. Galveston Police will also enforce the use of residential parking permits to discourage island visitors from trying to avoid the Seawall fee by parking on nearby residential streets.
The paid parking idea was approved by Galveston voters in 2011 to pay for Seawall maintenance and improvements.