More and more people are moving to New Braunfels. Sometimes they are newcomers to Texas while others are Lone Star natives enjoying its proximity to Austin and San Antonio and the Hill Country.
City planners are adjusting and preparing for this exponential growth, which means creating new routes and means of transportation for people to get to work, spend the weekend downtown and go beyond the city limits.
Families, singles, and old and young residents are settling in areas which fit these transportation needs. As New Braunfels experiences development, it will also see changes in its demographics as more people, especially families, come to the second fastest region in the nation.
Real estate broker Michelle Schwandt works with RE/MAX Realty and MOTTO MORTGAGE for New Braunfels and Seguin. Schwandt said she has seen people move from major cities to New Braunfels for its small town feel and entertaining downtown.
“The demographics of people moving here that we track are coming from California, Colorado, Illinois and a larger group are coming from Washington, D.C.,” Schwandt said. “There’s a larger group coming from out of state.”
Who Is coming?
The U.S. Census estimates there were about 34,335 workers over the age of 16 in New Braunfels, according to American Community Survey 5-year estimates.
Of those workers, about 18% are in educational services, health care and social assistance, according to Census data.
The next biggest industry is retail trade which makes up about 13%.
Schwandt said she has seen many “couples in their mid to late 30s moving to our area.”
They then work in the city or commute to Austin, San Antonio, Seguin and San Marcos.
“They say the average age of people here are 34,
but I don’t agree with that since I have a hard time seeing that since there’s a bigger spread than that,” Schwandt said. “I think as we start seeing these upscale apartments with garages and workload spaces. I think that’s going to bring a younger crowd.”
Some are seeking out apartments, and New Braunfels is estimated to have many in apartments with rent ranging from $1,000 to $1,500, according to Census 5-year estimates from 2013-2017.
The hot areas
Others are coming to mixed-use developments near downtown, such as Town Creek, while avoiding expensive mortgages or rent in the city center. This also puts pressure on downtown as more drive in from these areas.
“Everybody drives through downtown and they see how quaint it is,” Schwandt said. “But parking in the downtown area is an issue and parallel parking. Eventually everybody who will live in New Braunfels will have cars.”
Surrounding downtown are pockets of old houses, dated as far back as the late 1800s and early 1900s. Neighborhoods include those off South Academy Avenue, Lee Street.
“There are also little pockets around Mission Hill,” Schwandt said. “Right around Mission Hill older residents still live in their homes that are right near city hall.”
Young couples and families wanting a quiet neighborhood but closeness to the community are eyeing fixer-uppers.
“You see people in these homes that haven’t been updated,” Schwandt said. “And these young couples see HGTV and a lot of them have the wherewithal to start a project but they’ll try it.”
This brings more cars, meaning more traffic congestion and need for improved roads and more routes extending to these areas.
“People enjoy the fact that living near Creekside gives them access to things like Target, the movie theater,” Schwandt said. “But their number one complaint is traffic. It’s a high volume.”
Children getting around
Families seeking quality schools and planned-out, peaceful environments are buying up houses in Veramendi, a master-planned community spanning about 2,500 acres. It boasts the new Veramendi Elementary, which opened in 2017 and is experiencing climbing enrollment.
“The district’s prerogative is building schools centrally located near homes,” said NBISD director of transportation Brian Gibson. “Our town has grown so quickly that with the growth and the road construction, that provides some challenges for us navigating.”
Gibson said buses leave the district facility at 5:45 a.m. in the morning to pick up students farther away, especially those in developing communities.
“There’s always going to be an ever growing amount of routes because we receive platt maps from the county and builders, we don’t even see the final product,” Gibson said. “We do the best at having routes available as growth occurs. Sometimes we have stops that are closer to the main thoroughfare rather than closer in the subdivisions.”
Seniors getting around
The Comal County Senior Citizen Center, off North Walnut Avenue and Landa Street, sees many senior citizens on the go.
Those needing assistance going to the grocery store or doctor’s appointments use Alamo Regional Transit. Passengers call it ahead of time to schedule a bus to pick them up, as it does not have a fixed route in New Braunfels.
Most of the riders require transit for medical reasons, but also they take “quality of life” trips to the salon or movie theater.
“We probably have anywhere from five and 10 bus rides everyday,” said Ken Lowery, the senior center’s executive director.
Lowery said he knows many senior citizens live with their grown children, who sometimes live near downtown for their work.
“I see that trend growing,” Lowery said. “I would say that the majority of them live, let’s say, in the newer subdivisions off of County Line and out to the east of New Braunfels. But then there are some that live in apartments and ride the bus here.”
Yet Lowery said the city’s growth causes riders to wait an hour or even an hour and a half to be picked up. Riders are asked to schedule trips at least 24-hours in advance.
New Braunfels has the most rides out of all the cities the Alamo Area Council of Governments’ ART services, AACOG authorities said. With all the growth, ART is doing what it can to anticipate and adjust, said Miguel Segura, AACOG external affairs coordinator.
“We’re doing a study for city and all experts to get some of that input and see how we can service that growth,” Megura said. “We have to set a plan on our end to figure out what those opportunities could be, like fixed routes, different demand response options.”
Throughout 2019, ART had more than 23,000 rides in New Braunfels alone. Lowery said he has coordinated with ART to try and bridge any gaps in service.
“They do a good job with what they have to do, they’re great at getting people from A to B but not running a bus route,” Lowery said. “It’s not an easy answer and it’s expensive.”
As a former New Braunfels Transportation Committee member, Lowery said he hopes more will be done to service those who struggle with getting around.
“The city is getting bigger and bigger and the city boundaries are growing and new areas are coming in,” Lowery said. “It’s a tough job.”