You get into the car with friends or family, drive downtown to that event you’ve been waiting weeks for, only to find out there is no parking available close to your destination.

Similar occurrences are what triggered the city of Round Rock to look at its parking to see if they need more spaces. City leaders say the City Hall parking garage near Main Street is a tight squeeze for cars, and many times drivers would get to the top, realize there weren’t any open spots, and have to turn around. 

The city is now looking at adding electronic signs in parking garages to let drivers know how many open spots are available in real time.

The parking garage underneath the Allen R. Baca Center on West Bagdad Avenue is already piloting the system, using green or red lights above spots to show whether they’re open or full; blue lights signal available handicap slots.

A marquee is being shipped to the city right now, to put outside the Baca garage to let drivers know the parking availability in real-time, before they enter.

Crews have also removed the parking spots that used to be in the median along Main Street, to get rid of some of the traffic congestion.

The city also wants to install sensors in 19 spots along this same stretch of Main Street in front of the Louisiana Longhorn Cafe, to let officials know when someone is parked longer than the two-hour parking maximum. The real-time data will allow the city to free up parking spots for people downtown.

“You’ve come downtown for a nice night with your family and you’re already frustrated because you’ve gotten stuck or can’t find a parking spot,” explains Heath Douglas, IT director for the city of Round Rock. “So that was kind of the idea behind this, ‘Boy, we could really do something better to give people a better experience coming and visiting downtown.'”

The city plans to add sensors to the City Hall parking garage next, and eventually the new library garage. The sensors will cost the city $500-$600 per spot, covering the sensors themselves, the cost of installation, server and software fees, upgrades and signage.

The city estimates it costs between $10,000-$12,000 for a parking spot in a garage, so they will analyze the data from the sensors to see if they need to add any more parking.

There are 663 free parking spots in downtown Round Rock, including 68 spots on Main Street between Mays and Sheppard streets.