Mention the word “parking” to Diana Corrigan, executive director of the St. Armands Circle Association, and you’re likely to see flames and smoke spewing from her eyes, nose, mouth and ears.
Talk about a hot topic.
In recent months, ever since the geniuses at Sarasota City Hall pulled the parking meters from downtown Sarasota, they have made St. Armands Circle a parking hell. And Corrigan has felt much of hell’s heat. She is steaming — and so are the Circle’s merchants.
Shoppers who have been ticketed have thrown parking tickets in Corrigan’s face. They have called her on the phone, fuming and calling her and the city of Sarasota nasty, nasty, unprintable names in loud, rude tones. And they have sent her sizzling emails, railing against the city’s ridiculous parking policies.
Ever since the parking-meter fiasco, the Sarasota City Commission supported and instituted a get-tough policy on parking all over the city to make up for lost funds from the meters.
On St. Armands Circle, this is how that policy has been translated:
If a portion of your car is parked outside of the rectangular parking boxes — say your front wheels are on the lines — bam! You get a parking ticket. If the rear fin of your car is hanging outside of the lines because you’re not the greatest parallel parker — bam! You get a ticket. If the wheels of your car are sitting on the white vertical line or a little over it — whammo! You get a ticket.
City cops have been writing tickets left and right for these minor, minor infractions, and the cash is flowing into City Hall — and out of the city of Sarasota!
The merchants are in an uproar. Day after day, they hear themselves or from Corrigan another story of an irate shopper who has received a parking ticket.
Early last month, an alarmed and exasperated board of the St. Armands Circle Association asked Mayor Suzanne Atwell and the city’s parking director, Mark Lyons, to attend a board meeting to hear first-hand how the city’s policy is working. Talk about a huge success. It is one of the most successful “sales prevention” programs ever instituted at City Hall!
In response to the letter reprinted nearby, Corrigan wrote: “Our businesses didn’t want this new parking enforcement policy. Our board of directors did not want this new policy. The Business Improvement District did not want this policy. YET — it is everyone who makes his living on St. Armands Circle who is paying the price for this new policy.”
After Atwell heard the stories of peeved tourists and shoppers and how the Circle merchants are losing business, the mayor vowed the city would take action to relax the policy on St. Armands. She apologized and acknowledged: One government-size parking policy does not fit all.
A month has passed.
And how has this issue been addressed?
City staffers recently installed more (yes, more) signs on St. Armands Circle. They instruct motorists to “park in designated parking spaces.”
Really, are they serious?
+ Meanwhile, on Siesta
Siesta Key Village and Siesta Key Beach — like St. Armands Circle — continue to wrestle with their own parking problems. Thankfully, the city of Sarasota is not in charge there.
But like St. Armands Circle, there is shortage of parking in both places.
Interesting: Three of the region’s most popular tourist draws — Siesta Key Beach, Siesta Key Village and St. Armands Circle — all have parking shortages. And they’re all crying for solutions.
Don’t expect those solutions to come from government.
For Siesta Beach, one of our My View columnists, Jeffrey Weisman, last week offered several creative ideas in our sister paper, the Pelican Press, that would generate as many as 100 more parking places for Siesta Key Beach. If you missed his column, check it out online. It makes a lot of sense, especially the idea of making use of jitneys and empty church lots.
Two of the unspoken messages in Weisman’s creative ideas are: the private sector and the economics of scarcity.
Take the first, the private sector. You can imagine an entrepreneur (already in the valet and parking business) operating weekend jitneys and lease agreements with the Siesta Key churches that have unused parking on the weekends.
But crucial to that entrepreneur’s success is a bugaboo county officials are afraid to broach: charging for parking at Siesta Beach.
Think about it: County commissioners are wrangling with how to fund a beach remodeling. For now, all Sarasota County taxpayers will end up paying much of the tab. But if the county turned over the beach parking lot to a private operator who competed with the valet service, you’d have the marketplace allocating resources efficiently — and beachgoers paying for a service and space that is rarely free.
WHERE PARKING’S N0T A PLEASURE
From: Chris Bowers
Sent: Monday, August 20, 2012 2:21 PM
To: Suzanne.Atwell@sarasotagov.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Parking Ticket
I just returned from a fantastic two-week vacation in Sarasota and want say how much I enjoy visiting St. Armands Circle.
Unfortunately the reason that I am writing is to express my feelings about receiving a parking ticket at the Circle while visiting on Aug. 10.
For the last four years my family and I have visited Siesta Key and St. Armands Circle and enjoyed dining and shopping, and this year was no exception. However on the first night we visited St. Armands Circle, I received a $35 parking ticket for parking outside the lines.
This is the first parking ticket I have received in 20 years — no kidding. I am probably not the worlds greatest at parking but good enough to avoid tickets on most days.
When I parked the rental van in the Circle, I made sure my bumpers were within the lines so I didn’t cause anyone else to get a ticket. Unfortunately for me, I parked on the inner circle and didn’t move the van close enough to the curb, even though I backed up and drove forward twice to try to get closer.
We ate dinner, and while we were shopping one of our party came back to tell me we had just received a parking ticket. He said that as the attendant took a picture and wrote the ticket, he asked why the ticket was being issued and if a warning was possible.But because the ticket was already written up, we didn’t get a warning.
Another couple stood by and watched and asked why we were getting a ticket; apparently it wasn’t very obvious.
As we left that night, I took note of at least 10 vehicles that were clearly parked illegally over the lines around the Circle but didn’t see tickets on any of those vehicles. So why wasn’t I allowed at least a warning if these cars weren’t even recognized for parking illegally?
To wrap up, we had planned to return to the Circle during our vacation for a nice anniversary dinner, and I wanted to purchase a nice gift of jewelry for my wife. But after receiving the ticket, I felt I would rather use my wallet to make a point that I did not appreciate the parking ticket. So we chose to go somewhere else to celebrate, and we spent our money in Orlando at Disney World and dined at the Boardwalk.
We plan to return for more vacations in Sarasota in the future and hope that the city decides which is more important — collecting money from parking tickets or encouraging visitors to come and enjoy the city and spend their money on things they enjoy.