At a meeting last month, members of the city’s Downtown Improvement District showed that paid parking is still a sore subject in Sarasota, coming out strongly against its potential return in the near future.
Today, the board revisited that conversation, with Parking Manager Mark Lyons presenting background information on the city’s forthcoming parking strategic plan. Lyons has been working with the city’s Parking Advisory Committee to formulate a comprehensive parking management plan for Sarasota, which he hopes to have ready for presentation within two months.
At an April DID meeting, board member Eileen Hampshire — also a member of the Parking Advisory Committee — mentioned that paid parking could soon return as part of the strategic plan. In response, the DID voted to recommend against considering the reinstitution of paid parking for at least two years.
During today’s meeting, the group’s stance softened a bit. Still, board members made clear that the Mall at University Town Center, scheduled to open in October, poses a serious threat in their eyes. If paid parking is instituted in the wrong way or at the wrong time, they said, they fear that customers will flock to the mall instead of downtown.
“I think that would rattle the general public a little too much, given what's coming at us,” DID member Tom Mannausa said.
Lyons explained the principles behind potentially reintroducing paid parking to Sarasota. He said that previous parking meter failures were based on implementation; with the parking division now focusing on best practices in other cities, they would have a better strategy to reintroduce paid parking.
He also said that, despite the negative perception of the previous paid parking program, the meters were at about a 70% acceptance rate among surveyed users. Even with the meters in place, Lyons said, the on-street occupancy rate was averaging around 95%.
“I would maintain paid parking doesn't drive anyone away — it provides an opportunity for people to come and park,” Lyons said. “When these spaces are full, people decide they want to move on.”
Any paid parking program would focus first on prime spaces where the city would like to encourage turnover, Lyons said. Parking Advisory Committee Chairman Chris Gallagher said he was interested in finding a cluster of merchants that wanted paid parking installed along their block to serve as some of the initial implementation areas. In return, those merchants could benefit from the funds generated by the meters in the form of something like enhanced landscaping.
DID member Mark Kauffman said the group didn’t want anything done simultaneously with the mall, but that six months later, it might be appropriate to apply the things Lyons was talking about. He wanted the city to encourage parking in the garages by keeping them free to park for several hours, and for any program to be brought along deliberately so citizens could get used to the new system.
“It will come — there's no question it's going to come,” Kauffman said about paid parking. “It has to be brought along slowly.”
Lyons stood behind the principles of paid parking, but agreed that the city needed to be careful about installing whatever comes out of the parking strategic plan.
“We need to take our time in implementing it,” Lyons said.
Contact David Conway at email@example.com.
Currently 7 Responses
- Paid parking is not the answer in downtown Sarasota...in fact it will have the opposite effect based on numerous studies throughout the US and previous Sarasota attempts. As usual the downtown committee is focused on the wrong agenda - this committee should think about how to attract steady traffic to downtown venues rather than drive it away. It's really not that complicated - some of our city committee should take a class in urban planning!!
- Hello, everyone who wants paid parking will soon get there chance at the new parking garage So please don't mess our city up with silly parking meteors. Did you not learn from history the last............number of times you spent (wasted) our money. we did not forget an wont as a voter
- This will fail as it did in the past. It did'nt work before and cost the taxpayer a small fortune. The city should find out who is being paid of to implement this program???.
- How many times do we have to do this before it sinks in? I've lived here 43 years. Every time we have put in paid parking downtown (which I think has been 4 or 5 times), it has been a disaster. Yes, the spaces were mostly full the last time - full of cars with handicapped placards which generated no revenue for the city at all. The city staffers need to wise up and stop trotting out the same old, same old all the time.
- Lyons has a very short memory or has another agenda. Paid parking was a bad idea, poor meters, poor implementation that did not work. With the forthcoming new shopping center paid parking will chase patrons away from downtown. Maybe this commission should think about strategies that drive traffic to downtown rather than push it away. Unbelievable.
- What a waste of time and money AGAIN! I did not go into Sarasota very often when the meters were there and will not when they return. The nice unstressful atmosphere, without meter worry, is what brings people into town.
- Almost every Downtown shopping district in the United States saw loads of vacant storefronts when parking meters were installed and those merchants that used to be in Downtown Shopping districts followed their customers to the nearby shopping centers that had loads of free parking. History does repeat itself, and the Mall at University Town Center will be the recipient of both shoppers and merchants that used to be located downtown on Main St.
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